I was fired after disabling my coworker’s caps-lock key, leaving on time to pick up my dog, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was fired after disabling my coworker’s caps-lock key

I just finished my sophomore year of college. For the summer, I got a three-month internship at a company that does work in the field I am getting my degree in and want to work in after I graduate. This was my second job, after the internship somewhere else I had last summer. I was hoping to get some good experience like last summer.

I was paired with the same person for two-thirds of the work I was doing. She has lots of skills, but I noticed when she types she uses the caps-lock key each time she needed to make a capital letter instead of using the shift key. She is only five years older than me, and she is very good with technology and computers. I didn’t understand why she would type this way, because even though she does type fast and efficiently, using the caps-lock key would slow her down. I mentioned it to her and even showed her, and she said she had no idea but she would keep on using the caps-lock key.

I thought she just needed to see how efficient it was so when I was using her computer I disabled the caps-lock key. She was very upset when she found out that it didn’t work and I explained what I did and why she should give the shift key a chance. She complained to the manager, and even though I was just trying to make things more efficient, the manager sided with her and I was let go a month into my internship. HR sided with her too when I went to them. I’m confused because I was only trying to help and make things more efficient. Did I really do something wrong or did the company overreact?

You overstepped. You interfered with her workflow, which you didn’t have any right to do. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s similar to if you decided that her filing system was inefficient and completely reorganized her files without her permission; it’s not yours to do and it would undoubtedly mess up her workflow.

You can’t mess with people’s computer, files, etc., even if you’re just trying to help. It’s presumptuous and it’s overstepping.

Firing you was an extreme response, but it’s possible they’d had other concerns and this was a final straw kind of thing.

2. Leaving on time to pick up my dog

I am about to interview for a new role and I was hoping to get your advice on how/when to bring up a potential problem. I have a dog with quite bad separation anxiety who goes to doggy daycare every day as a result. To collect him from daycare, I need to leave work at 5.30 most days. In my current role, this hasn’t proven an issue as I have been very diligent in managing workloads and our business isn’t one where long hours are normally necessary. In cases where there are late meetings or evening commitments, it is possible to make alternative arrangements, but most days I will have to leave on time. We are working with a dog trainer at the moment to build up to being able to leave the dog for a couple of hours, but the training is contingent on him not being left at the moment.

Is this something I should bring up only once I have an offer?

Definitely wait until you have an offer, which is the general rule with logistics stuff that you’re hoping will be fairly minor.

And once you have the offer, I don’t know that I’d get into the reason for the request. Fairly or not, you risk people thinking you’re prioritizing wrong if you explain it’s about doggy daycare. You might be better off just saying, “Can you tell me what typical hours are like? The way my after-work schedule is set up right now, I’d need to leave at 5:30 most days. Is that feasible with this role, or do people in this position end up needing to stay later than that regularly?”

3. Is porn ever okay on a work computer?

Is porn ever okay on a work computer? Background: I’ll be traveling for an extended period of time and my only mobile internet devices are my company computer and company phone. It will be off the clock and not on the company internet, but I’m not sure if it would be considered using company resources still or not.

Thoughts? Is this something that would get flagged even if not on company network?

Don’t do it. If you’re using any company device (phone, computer, tablet), even if you’re not on your company’s network, there’s too much of a risk that what you’re doing could be tracked and spotted by them. And if they do spot it, you really don’t want to have the “but the porn was off the clock” conversation. They’re entitled not to want to have business resources mixed with porn.

Instead, consider getting a small tablet to take with you so that you have some privacy.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I can’t tell if I was really asked back for another interview or not

I had an interview yesterday with a terrific organization that I would love to work for. This morning, I woke up to an email from the HR person asking me to suggest some times to come back for a final round. The only problem is that he addressed it to the wrong name. In the salutation section of the email, he wrote, “Hi, Jane,” and there was no other mention of names throughout the email. My thinking is that this could either have been a copy-paste error if he was emailing multiple candidates (and still meant to send it to me), or he could have intended to send this to another candidate altogether.

When I write back to confirm my availability, should I address the name issue or just ignore it and act like it was addressed to me?

The error was probably the name, not the sending it to you, but for peace of mind you could say something like this when writing back: “I’m hoping you meant Alison, not Jane! Assuming so, I’d love to come back in to talk further.”

5. Should I go back to my old job?

I hate my new job. I’ve been here for less than two months, but let me back up.

My last job was great. I worked with great people for a great cause and my role was really interesting and engaging. I left because I was offered a job (I wasn’t looking) and it’s in a larger organization with more room to grow and more money which I sorely need. I felt I was making a mistake the instant I resigned — but how do you go back on that? I thought I should see how it played out.

During my notice period, I worked hard. Overtime, weekends, etc. — and not because anyone asked me to but because I wanted to leave everything in good shape for the interim person and because, to be honest, I felt so bad for leaving. I was told over and over that if I changed my mind before they replaced me, they’d take me back.

Fast forward to now. I don’t like it here. My boss and I just haven’t gelled and I feel like I don’t fit in here at all. It’s not a bad place to work it’s just not … me. The job itself isn’t what I thought it would be and I find my role very isolating. To top it off, I know my boss isn’t happy with me (yes, I know for a fact) and I’m worried he’s going to let me go.

I’m so confused about what to do. Part of me wants to ask for my old job back but is that even a real thing? Do people actually mean it when they say that they’d take you back? I know I can leave (or get let go, whichever comes first!) and leave this blip off my resume, but as the sole provider for my family I’m scared to be unemployed. Any advice?

Yes, people go back. It’s a thing! I wouldn’t always recommend it, because if you’d been looking to leave in the first place, there was probably a reason — and those things are probably going to make you dissatisfied all over again after a few months back. In those cases, I’d say look at a third option — not going back, not staying where you are, but finding something else entirely. But in your case, you weren’t looking. You were lured away by something that ended up not being what you’d hoped.

If you want to go back, email your old boss, ask if they’ve filled your role, and ask if she was serious about you coming back. (She probably was, but asking is an easy way to lead into it.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 757 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    Ooh, interesting questions.

    OP #1, bad mistake. People do things a certain way for a reason that works for them. You pointed it out once, she told you why she preferred it. You should have let it go at that point.

    OP #3, my eyebrows shot up to the ceiling upon reading your question. I have a laptop and iPad Pro that was given to me by work. Two days ago, I asked one of the IT people if I could install Sim City 4 on it and he said that officially it wasn’t cool but most people did install personal stuff and it was overlooked. However, he specifically warned me off porn. (I am an older woman and assured him that was not a personal interest.)

    OP #5, I have gone back twice to my old job in higher education. I’m there to stay now–fabulous benefits and a good new boss–so I say go for it.

    1. Junior Dev*

      RE: 1, I hate it when a co-worker is showing me how to do something and they critique me for right-clicking instead of using a keyboard shortcut, or something. One that seems to baffle all of them is when I type out code by hand instead of copy/pasting example code from an online example or elsewhere in the project. It helps me understand the code better.

      Even if the co-worker had “bad” reasons for using the caps lock key (and they might have reasons you don’t know about, like a hand injury that makes pressing multiple keys at once difficult), you don’t screw with people’s workflow unless you have a very good reason (like necessary software updates), and even then you do it with as much buy in from the user as possible. I hope OP 2 learns from this that you can’t just go imposing your idea of the “right” way to do things on other people without considering their point of view.

      1. Artemesia*

        For 1. The deal breaker here was that you had already EXPLAINED the cap lock thing and the person had told you she didn’t want to do that. It was incredibly offensive to then go in and change her computer to force her to see it your way. If this was in fact the straw that broke the camel, you need to really rethink how you work with other people; this was presumptuous and insubordinate two things that will help you get fired if you do something similar in your future job. Internships are a great time to learn these truths of the universe; it is relatively low stakes. Take it to heart and be more mindful of how you interact in a workplace. Coming on too strong as a newbie is always a mistake; spend your first 3 mos on a new job observing how the place functions.

        1. thevekuc*

          I agree with the comments, but wanted the OP to look on the bright side that you learned this lesson (getting buy in from co-workers versus shoving a change down their throats) the early in you career.

          We just hired a senior know it all who has systematically alienated or at least rubbed every one of his co-workers the wrong way. He has many good ideas that we happily adopted, but where we’ve expressed reservations, he digs in his heels and gets a bit belligerent. From what I’ve overheard, he’s working with IT to update our computers to implement things he thinks we will have. This is very annoying for a couple of reasons (I like to understand changes made to my computer and I may not want all the changes particularly personal preference type changes).

          Anyway, getting fired sucks, but if it helps you to avoid eventually turning into someone like the guy we’ve hired, it’s a blessing to you and to your future co-workers.

        2. Annonymouse*

          The fact it went through:
          co worker
          co workers boss
          and HR

          Tells me that OP
          1) Doesn’t understand senority – of course the bosses and HR will side with the actual employee over the intern on a subject like this.

          2) Doesn’t understand how innovation and implementation work.

          If an employed worker does something a certain way at your internship you don’t get to make them change. You only get to force changes if you’re hired to make that change as a consultant or C suite.

          3) Is willing to waste company time by pushing an intial non-issue into a firing offence.

          (not sure if HR came before or after the firing)

          4) Thinks being right or focusing on a small issue is more important than learning and getting experience in their field – the whole point of an internship.

          This is why you got fired OP.

          You turned a small quirk into a huge deal for 4 people, misunderstood the point of your internship and proved difficult to work with.

          Please learn from this so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        “and even then you do it with as much buy in from the user as possible”

        Thinking about it OP, you might want to look into – and learn a bit about – something called ‘change management’, which is basically about introducing new processes or programs or ways of doing things. It’s never as simple as just forcing the change. If you learn about this, you could turn this experience into a scenario you can talk about in interviews.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Sorry this is nearly a year late, but I just saw this.

          Ramona Flowers is right: “If you learn about this, you could turn this experience into a scenario you can talk about in interviews.”

          This is very important! There are many aspects to whatever industry you’ve chosen, and dollars to donuts, if you get into management, you’re going to have to implement change, as new technology, processes, cultural shifts, etc. demand.

          Being someone who KNOWS how to implement change with underlings and co-workers will look fantastic in interviews. Our world changes *all the time!*. “How do you deal with change?” is a big interview question (or should be).

          When they ask you “How do you deal with change?” you can tell them all the positive things you learned, specifically because of this episode. “I screwed up royally during my second internship, trying to force a change on my co-worker. Because of that, I decided to study that topic, specifically, including how to deal with change myself, and how to implement change in a business environment. I read (list some well known books/articles/other resources here. My favorite is “Who Moved My Cheese”) and interviewed some consultants whose entire job is identifying needed changes and implementing them. Furthermore, I took classes/training on the psychology of change, and change management. I took that stumbling block and turned it into a stepping stone!”

          Your heart was in the right place, wanting to improve your co-worker’s life, but the way you went about it was 1) disruptive of her workflow (thus costing the company money), and 2) downright hurtful. But you can learn from this mistake, and become an expert in Change, adding value to any organization you join, as you help them keep up with our fast-changing society.

          Good luck, and may you become the best best Agent Of Change in your industry!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      For OP#1, although firing sounds harsh (I suspect it was a final straw), on the plus side, it’s better to have a learning opportunity like this earlier in your career than later.

      But yes, this was an overreach. OP#1, you told your coworker about your method, she politely turned you down. Instead of letting it go and focusing on your own work or performance, you became really focused on “fixing” this one little thing that you thought she shouldn’t do. You didn’t consider if she’s cultivated a style of typing that means she’s faster when she uses Caps-lock (instead of shift), or if she’s trained in a different typing method, or if she may have a physical impediment that informs her typing approach, or if she just prefers using Caps-lock. You essentially deprioritized all your other work, etc., to “prove” to your coworker that your “solution” was better, when in fact it significantly derailed her morning and disrupted her workflow. It’s also not the right way to communicate with other people, and it was a bit sneaky to do (most people do not expect their coworkers to get into their account/computer and then mess around with their settings).

      Can you see why your approach went over so badly? Because based on your letter, I’m a little worried that you’re once again focused on a different problem than the problem that your employer and coworker identified. If you can try to understand why this went sideways, I think it will help you cultivate your ability to see problems from others’ perspectives, which is valuable to hone as you continue in your career.

      1. Lance*

        That last point is key. If you have to ask if you’re doing something wrong, you’d best be reading and seeing exactly why what you did was wrong, and why that shouldn’t even be a question.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The second and third paragraphs are why I suspect that this may well have been a last straw thing, even if OP didn’t notice any of the pre-firing faux pas. It wasn’t a problem (‘types fast and efficiently’), it wasn’t OP’s problem to fix, and you just do not mess with anyone’s settings, ever, unless you are the IT person and they asked you to do it.

        1. KTZee*

          It might have been a first straw thing, honestly. The most common way to disable the Caps Lock key on a typical Windows computer is to edit the Windows registry, which is the sort of activity that comes with big blinking red warning signs on tech websites. It has the serious potential to really mess up your computer if you do something wrong (though it’s relatively safe if you are following reputable directions carefully).

          I would not be at all surprised to learn this would be a first-strike firing offense due to its potential to compromise IT security, especially considering it was done on someone else’s computer, however banal the actual outcome may have been.

          1. whingedrinking*

            Yeah, I think going into someone else’s workspace cavalierly to prove a point shows terrible judgement. A coworker of mine once changed another coworker’s desktop wallpaper for a prank and got a sternly worded email from the administration – in a situation that had no risk of compromising security or seriously affecting her work ability, just because it’s rude and unprofessional to go mess around with someone else’s work stuff for your own reasons.

      3. JennyFair*

        Assuming an adult who knows how to type somehow doesn’t understand what the Shift key does was itself an error in judgment, and demonstrated an assumption on the part of the letter writer of their own superiority.

      4. many bells down*

        Even if it’s not objectively faster to do it her way, by forcing her to type in a way that’s not automatic to her, that’s not ingrained in her muscle memory, #1 has now made her comparatively slower. She’s going to be automatically trying to do it the way she’s always done it, and constantly having to stop and back up and re-do things.

    3. Antilles*

      Two days ago, I asked one of the IT people if I could install Sim City 4 on it and he said that officially it wasn’t cool but most people did install personal stuff and it was overlooked.
      As far as I can tell, this is a very common to handle installing games, music players, and other software programs by established companies: The policy formally says no, but we’ll look the other way as long as it doesn’t create a problem (illegal copies, security risks, taking up so much space the computer runs slowly, etc).

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        They might look the other way until there are other problems with your work, and then they stop looking away. Not being a problem today doesn’t mean that it won’t be a problem tomorrow. A colleague was in a similar situation, and received an informal OK to do what he was doing. But when he got a new boss who was looking to clean out his department, the OK disappeared and my colleague was terminated because he was violating company policy with the think that was previously OK’d.

        1. Aphrodite*

          True. But here it is okay. I have a new boss but both she and the last one (and in fact all the ones at the college before that) were fine with people spending time browsing online during downtimes because the busy times were VERY busy. Yes, I am fortunate. I do not play the game at work at all regardless of whether there is time or not.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yep. I have a friend who has a coworker who had gotten a laptop that was previously used by another employee. It was loaded with porn and when they told their manager, the employee who it previously belonged to was escorted out that day.

          1. Elise*

            I’m always surprised when things like laptops, ipads, etc are passed from one staff member to another without a look at condition and contents first. I can’t tell you how many of our staff come to me with iPad issues and they would have been prevented by a clean wipe after the previous employee turned it in and left.

            So leaving a laptop in that condition is even worse!

        3. Anna*

          This is the kind of thing that would make no difference; the manager would have found something. Even if your friend had not installed anything and was using their equipment by the letter of the policy, they would have been let go.

    4. Misc*

      Heh, I was quite amused reading 3, because ALL my devices belong to work (I work from home, my old computer is very dead now, I never buy myself smartphones, but I keep getting given stuff for testing/work use) and I never worry at all about any personal use aspects. Whether that’s NSFW content, games, medical related data, general entertainment, art, travel, snaps of cats doing silly things in front of me… there can be a LOT of overlap between personal and business use on devices these days, and it would be super incredibly inconvenient for me to have to keep them separate (I would literally have to go buy new devices for everything).

      Of course, I was told point blank that I could go ahead and install whatever I liked (very definitely including games) and it’s sort of understood that it’s silly to buy a spare computer when work provides one and most smartphones are designed to work with a personal account (I need app store access and an account/profile to USE them for work), so it’s quite difficult to keep my personal stuff separate from work stuff on them.

      Of course this is VERY context dependent. I work for a very small company that specifically allows this. I’d treat my devices very differently if I worked elsewhere.

      1. Misc*

        And when I hand stuff back in for tech purposes (because occasionally we need to swap devices around), I can easily wipe my personal data. So there’s not much risk to people seeing things I don’t want them to see.

        …I also kind of flummoxed my manager by not using a smartphone as an actual phone (it wasn’t given to me for that purpose, and I never need it for work calls, I just needed it for other things, but apparently they just assumed I’d use it as a personal phone). So apparently I’m under-personal-using my devices :D

      2. Floundering Mander*

        I wouldn’t want my employer to have access to my NSFW or personal stuff, though. It’s pretty easy to buy a second-hand device to use for such things and taking an extra mobile phone on a trip doesn’t seem like a huge burden to me. I have a second phone that I got for 30 pounds on ebay that I take with me on vacation. I set it up with a separate gmail account although I use things like Dropbox to sync important files. At home I sometimes use it to stream music in the kitchen or just for playing around on the internet.

        YMMV, of course, but I wouldn’t want my employer to have access to my social media or ebook accounts.

    5. Volunteer Enforcer*

      Seconding your assessment on OP #1. Everyone has different preferences for doing things.

    6. Susana*

      I have to say… I don’t think firing was an over-reaction. First, the LW is an INTERN (and guess what? I kept my finger held on the shift button instead of hitting all caps when I wrote that!). It’s totally not his/her place to instruct a staffer on how best to use the keyboard. Vandalizing the equipment to prove he or she is right, well… that’s a fireable offense. But maybe good lesson for an intern to learn.

  2. Dog advice*

    #2, if your boss doesn’t let you leave on time, my suggestion would be not putting your dog in doggy daycare. You likely have reasons for doing this, but often separation anxiety is increased by unfamiliar places. Try leaving your dog at home outside of a crate. Start them in a smaller area, again not a crate, and then a bigger area.

    1. Sami*

      We don’t really know what’s best for the OP’s dog. Likely daycare is a better option than being alone. Walks, outside time, socialization, etc. Best to just take her at her word.

      1. Dog advice*

        Like I said, she likely has her reasons, but if doggy daycare isn’t helping, she could try leaving her dog at home. Just a suggestion. :)

        1. Lady Luck*

          This isn’t helpful advice. She’s working with a trainer, who certainly knows the situation better than we do and says the dog shouldn’t currently be left alone while they work on the issues. It’s also not what the LW asked for advice on – she just wanted to know how and when to bring it up with her potential new employer, no dog advice needed.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Except some dogs with separation anxiety are happier with their doggy friends than alone in the house. That’s why it’s *separation* anxiety. Doggy daycare isn’t a strange place–the dog is seeing the same staff members and probably a lot of the same dogs every day.

        1. Koko*

          So much this. I worked at a doggy daycare in college, part of a kennel about 45 minutes outside of a mid-sized city. Daycare cost was $25/dog/day, with Friday free if they came Monday-Thursday. Most of the daycare dogs on any given day were dogs staying on the kennel half of the facility whose owners paid a little extra per night so they could go to daycare while boarding there, but we also had “regulars” – the dogs who were there 5 days a week, every week. At $100/week their families were spending roughly $400/month just to keep them occupied during the day. The regulars also walked around liked they owned the place–the daycare was not a strange environment to them, it was where they spent 40-50 hours a week and the same four staff members worked daycare all the time, so they knew all of us well.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, I still remember, when my -child- was in daycare at 6 months and staying one day a week w/ my mother-in-law, my MIL asked me, “does she know she’s being taken care of by strangers?”

            I said, “Noni, they’re not strangers–she’s known them half her life. She sees them more than she sees you, and she knows them better!”

            1. CrazyCattleDogMom*

              Your response is priceless (putting that in my memory bank for future use with in-laws/stepparents)

            2. whingedrinking*

              I work with kids as a tutor and the whole, “Anyone who isn’t a blood relative is not to be trusted” vibe drives me crazy. Sometimes kids *need* someone outside their family, for a whole swathe of reasons. My job is to help children the best way I can, and yes, I get paid for it. That doesn’t make me some kind of horrible predator who’s out to steal them away from you.

        2. Tuckerman*

          Truth! Managing anxiety in dogs can be extremely expensive and time consuming. Some dogs are eat-through-the-drywall anxious.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Or eat the bottom of the crate and bend the door to get out anxious, or destroy the door to the room they’re in anxious, or eat the wood frame of the sliding glass door when outside in a small patio area…(ask me how I know)

      2. A Teacher*

        That is not a good plan–speaking as someone that does animal rescue, 130 fosters and counting, and has a dog with major anxiety (on Prozac). Daycare may be the dog’s best option. Often leaving a dog home alone uncrated especially with anxiety can actually make the situation worse. Dog daycare maybe the best option for her she’s probably tried numerous other solutions.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I have friends who adopted a dog with major separation anxiety; part of the reason they did doggie daycare for awhile (along with other things) is because he barked his fool head off for hours, and they were in a condo with not the most soundproof walls. Thankfully they now live in a SFH and the dog is much less anxious :)

    2. Sloan*

      This is terrible advice. My dog has separation anxiety but does much better when he’s not alone. She, not you, knows her dog.

      1. Doggy Anxiety*

        Thank you everyone. As everyone has kindly said, trust me, my dog loves doggy daycare and adores the guys who run it, and that’s why is important for me to keep this arrangement going forward! Thanks to all and Alison for the advice.

        1. Glacier*

          Hello, OP #2!

          As someone whose dog has severe separation anxiety (border collie-husky mix) my only suggestion would be to get a toy that dispenses their dinner. It sounds like you’re using other resources well (trainer, doggy daycare), but we really found that multiple toys that dispensed food helped. Dogs need jobs and things to occupy their minds, and nosing a ball around or pushing levers until something pops out can be a great distraction. Here is a link to my favorite since you can put food inside as well as stuff bits of jerky-for-dogs into the cracks on the outside: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009YK3OU/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

          1. Basia, also a Fed*

            Hello! I also have a border collie/husky mix! She doesn’t have separation anxiety, fortunately, but she’s smarter than we are and an arrogant terror!

            1. Snark*

              I have a border collie/something with a curly tail and sticky uppy ears mix, and oh my god, that dog is more driven than I am. If she were a human, she’d already be the CEO of a major corporation or something.

            2. T3k*

              Same here! My last dog, we had one of these types of toys that she was supposed to roll around to get the food out. Instead, she quickly learned she could just pick it up, jump on the couch, then drop it on the ground and the food would come out.

              1. Dankar*

                Mine used to go to the top of the stairs and push it down. Now that we live somewhere without a loft, she noses it end over end across the floor. Sorry, downstairs neighbors…

                OP, I would absolutely keep the reasoning to yourself. I’m lucky in that my boss not only knows that my pup needs to be picked up from daycare, but is very stern about getting me out on time. Even still, when I first needed to leave right at 5:00, I only made it clear that I had a commitment on certain days and that I could stay late other nights if need be with some notice.

          2. Monique*

            OMG. I tried this with our first dog (ie, we have two now). He quickly figured out that instead of nosing something around, he could simply throw it against the wall and shower the floor with kibble.

            This while my husband was still asleep.

            Some dogs are occupied productively with food-dispensing toys. Some are way too smart or just hit upon a particularly annoying solution.

            This is the same dog who used to get up and sleep on the guest bed. So we put a “scat mat” (electrified pad) on the bed. This worked for two days. On the third day, he had figured out how to push the blanket up against the mat and move the whole thing out of the way so that he could sleep on the fitted sheet.

            Yes, he is a border collie mix; why do you ask?

        2. Sara*

          #2, I just want to commend you on taking such good care of your dog. I also have a dog with terrible separation anxiety, and he goes to doggie daycare every day. I know what a psychological and financial strain it can be, and I think it’s wonderful that you’re committed to taking such good care of him/her.

      2. blackcat*


        It’s particularly unnecessary “I need to leave by 5/5:30” is so common because people have kids to pick up from human daycare/go to a fitness class/etc. It’s not like OP is asking to leave at 3 or 4 every day. Seems like the easiest solution is to figure out a work schedule that works for the current plan.

        1. Infinity anon*

          Especially if she makes it clear that she can stay later occasionally if she has prior notice. Never being able to work late would likely be more of a problem than needing notice.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            It also sounds like the OP would be able to do some occasional work from home in the evenings – a dog, even an anxious dog, is not like a baby that needs undivided attention until bedtime. She could potentially pick up the dog, go home, and wrap up the Teapot Lid report while the dog was curled up next to her on the couch. She just has to be home.

        2. Sherry*

          Pets or no pets, I think it’s great to find out this info at the offer stage! Wouldn’t you like to know if the start time is 7:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., or if working overtime is a frequent expectation?

          1. Jaydee*

            I think she can ask in a fairly general way about the usual workday schedule, frequency of things like overtime and travel, etc. in the interview. That way she might find out the schedule is just totally incompatible with what she needs and can politely withdraw from consideration before she gets too far along in the process. But if the schedule is something like “generally 8-4:30, but occasionally projects will require a late night or two or there may be a weekend or evening event” that’s probably compatible enough with her needs to continue on if she wants and to deal with the specifics if she gets an offer.

    3. Another person*

      I would go with the advice of the dog trainer.

      If it is important to the OP (or anyone else for that matter) to have a job where they know they can leave the office by a certain time (with the exception of planned events where arrangements can be made in advance), that should be established at the offer stage to avoid frustration all around.

      The reason does not matter as much as the fact that a job with unpredictable hours is not a good fit for the OP right now.

    4. Autumn Leaves*

      Good for you OP #2! I agree that it’s probably best not to mention the reason as some people don’t understand that pups are our babies!

      We found out recently that our dog #2 has separation anxiety when he is completely alone. He is totally fine when dog #1 is around, but we had to take dog #1 somewhere without #2 recently and he cried nearly the WHOLE time we were gone (~3 hours; we have a nanny (puppy) cam we turn on when we leave them alone). He is crate trained, and was crated, so he was not destructive, but it was so, so sad. I would absolutely put him in daycare if we had to leave him alone again. Luckily we usually take both or neither pups.

    5. School Psych*

      Wow. This advice is just bad.. I adopted a dog a few years ago with some anxiety issues and every trainer we talked to suggested crate training to work her up to longer periods of being left home alone and keep her safe while we were out. Dogs with anxiety can be destructive and some will hurt themselves trying to get out of the house. Some dogs with severe anxiety will hurt themselves even when crated and can’t be safely left alone out in the house for any period of time. I think doggy daycare is a great solution while she works with the trainer on the anxiety issues. My dog goes twice a week and it has really helped with her social skills and anxiety. She gets lots of attention from the staff there and it’s not an unfamiliar place, since she’s going regularly.

  3. nnn*

    Today I learned you can disable the capslock key! (Not that I have any need or desire to, but I think it’s kind of neat that you can.)

    1. Willis*

      Wish I knew this when I worked for my old boss, who’d hit it accidentally AND THEN SEND ENTIRE EMAILS TO CLIENTS WRITTEN LIKE THIS.

        1. Drew*

          I have a family member who does this on Facebook. We’ve learned to ignore it, but it took some time.

          1. FCJ*

            I see a certain person of Facebook (not a friend, but a friend of a friend so I see a lot of their comments), Who Types Every Sentence Like This. I don’t understand if it’s a keyboard setting or what, but it’s weird.

            1. Rana*

              I bet it’s phone auto-correct. It’s annoying, and I don’t understand why it’s even a default on some devices.

      1. seejay*

        I totally thought that was what the letter was going to be about… disabling it to prevent a coworker from sending all-caps emails. But this actually is worse. It’s not like the coworker is doing a total faux-pas by sending annoying ALL CAPS EMAILS that the LW is trying to prevent, they just feel that there’s a more efficient way to type.

        OP, your coworker has her way of typing that way for whatever reason, you stepped across bounds by actively interfering with it. That’s a huge no-no.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I definitely have weird workflow quirks that I haven’t changed because 1. they’re not bothering anything, and 2. if I tried to change them it would just slow me down for ages while I relearned how to do it.

          For instance I do not type with the home row. In fact my typing form is a complete horror. But I type 90+ wpm with this horrible form and I’m not willing to drop myself back to like 30wpm for a few months while I relearn how to type.

          1. StarHopper*

            My mother earned her phD later in life, when we kids were all in high school. She wrote her entire dissertation by hunting-and-pecking with her index fingers. Drove me crazy to see, so I just didn’t watch! People are married to their methods, but so long as the work’s getting done, who are we to judge?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              People can build up some wildly fast speed with hunt and peck. I remember a typing teacher in the 70s said a local paper had reporters who only used hunt and peck they were typing well over 60 wpm.
              She said, “Everyone leaves them alone. Their speed is just fine.”

              1. Collarbone High*

                I’ve spent my entire career in newsrooms and can confirm this. Most of the reporters I’ve worked with don’t know how to touch type, but they can type incredibly fast (and loud) with whatever hunt and peck system they’ve worked out.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yep. Because at a certain point there isn’t really any “hunting”–you know where the keys are, you’re just not hitting them with the expected fingers.

              2. Not About Bob*

                I got a C in typing class in high school because I didn’t use proper form, yet I consistently had the fastest WPM in the class when we were timed.

                That happened in the 80s, and I’m still bitter.

                1. caligirl*

                  Ah, typing class in the 80s… I flunked my 11th grade typing class and still have PTSD about those tests!

                2. Bunny*

                  Ha! I flunked typing. Currently journalist with fasting filing time in newsroom.

                  I write with…modifications. It works. It’s fine.

                  Please note I spend 2/3 of my time sitting on ground typing at oh, say, 8 alarm fires.

              3. Anion*

                I’m a professional novelist, multi-NY-published, and I’m basically a superfast (no-longer-hunt-and-) peck-er. 80+ wpm, if I’m really in the zone; I don’t have to look at the keyboard at all if I don’t want to. I’d have a fit if someone disabled one of the keys on my computer just because they thought I should be typing differently.

              4. Susana*

                I’m a reporter, and don’t know any reporter (myself included) who touch-types. But we can all write 800-word stories in an hour….

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Ha. My former boss typed with the index finger of one hand and the middle finger of the other, but he was pretty fast at it. I don’t think he ever learned to really type, but this works for him.

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                I used to have a coworker who typed with the index finger of his right hand and the index and middle fingers of his left hand. He was quite fast – at least as fast as me, a quite sloppy touch typist. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

                1. Long time lurker*

                  This is me! Except it’s two fingers on my right and one on my left. I’ve typed this way for like… 25 years? I can touch-type like this. I’m a professor. I write a lot. I’ve published a book. If an intern did this to me I’d fire him too.

              2. Alienor*

                My daughter had formal keyboarding classes in elementary school, but uses some odd system she developed on her own. She can type fast and accurately, though, so I don’t think it makes a difference!

            3. Blue Anne*

              My dad was like this! He was an academic and an expert witness. Wrote tons of stuff, papers, books, opinions. All hunt and peck.

            4. Allison*

              I peck the keyboard too! I don’t “hunt” though, I know where the keys are by now, but I definitely don’t type properly. But it works for me, and I type quickly, and if a colleague – especially a new, younger, less experienced colleague – tried to change the way I typed, I’d be livid. Heck I’d be annoyed if my boss tried to make me type differently, unless he had a damn good reason for it.

              1. OhNo*

                Same here. I can even type without looking most of the time, assuming it’s not one of those ergonomic split keyboards. I just know where most of the keys are by now since I’ve gotten so much practice.

                And as others have said, I would also be pretty cranky if anyone tried to make me type differently. Changing my style now would result in a massive slow down for however long it took me to learn the new system, and quite frankly I don’t have that kind of time.

            5. Elle*

              My mom JUST switched over to writing directly to the computer, vs. handwriting all of her work first! We kept telling her how much quicker it is, but she wasn’t interested. She’s thrilled with it now and wonders why she waited so long.

            6. JessaB*

              My grandfather was the fastest freaking typist I ever met, and he was a two index finger guy.

          2. aebhel*

            Same. I’m not in the 90+ wpm range, but I’m comfortably into the 70’s with my terrible form; I never took a typing class and learned it all on my own, so I definitely don’t do it the right way. But going back and relearning basic typing would slow me wayy down.

            If I had (or wanted) a job where extremely high-speed accurate typing was a prerequisite, I’d do it, but I don’t, so why bother?

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I type with four fingers. My typing speed is 130 wpm (yes, you read that right). Has been for years. If it ain’t broke…

                1. Grey*

                  She could have meant one hand. I mean, typing with four fingers on each hand is pretty common so that could go without saying.

                  I’m impressed by the 130 wpm either way, so I was just looking for clarification.

                2. Grey*

                  Unless you were implying that maybe she meant like 2 fingers on each hand.

                  In any case, 130 wpm is crazy. That kind of speed would jam a conventional typewriter.

                3. (Different) Rebecca*

                  I am implying two fingers on each hand, and who uses a conventional typewriter these days?? We can safely assume computer/tablet.

                4. teclatrans*

                  My assumption was two fingers per hand.

                  And OP, learn this now: your ideas for improved efficiency will often be rejected, and usually for good reasons if you are relatively new to the company. When you receive a no, listen. And whatever you do, do not force people to adopt your ideas so they will see how great they are. That’s movie-fiction stuff right there — heartwarming on-screen, creepy and controlling URL. (Well, it’s creepy and controlling on-screen, but usually not framed as such.)

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                Two per hand. Occasionally a third finger comes into play but I don’t touch type properly/correctly. Don’t need to as I can touch type fine my way – and everyone who’s ever told me to change has been slower than I am. I never look at the keys and don’t notice when the letters wear off.

                I can also type the alphabet in under five seconds. I have won at least three bets doing this as nobody ever believes it’s possible…

                1. SarahKay*

                  Wow! Like you, I don’t notice when the letters wear off – at least, not until someone else needs to type something into my computer and they complain – but I am not even close to 130 wpm. That is really, really impressive.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I don’t use the qwerty keyboard for the numerals. I use the ten-key pad whenever I need to type a number, which is faster for me even though I have to move my hand away from the keyboard and back. If someone took my 10-key pad away, I’d burn the building down*.

            *Office Space

            1. acmx*

              I hate not having a 10-key pad. If I have to use the numbers in a row, I feel like I don’t know my numbers – I have to look so much to find the right number lol

            2. eplawyer*

              OMG, I had an office manager who told me if I used the 10 key pad that was wrong. Yes, not a different style, not inefficient, but wrong. She would turn off my NumLock key every time she used my keyboard. I just turned it back on.

              The problem with #1 is not that the co-worker had a way of typing and he should leave it alone. It’s that an intern thought he could tell an employee of the company what to do. You are not this person’s supervisor. It is not your job to make people more efficient in the office. The intern’s job is to learn, not impose their ways on others. This letter reminded me of the dress code interns from last summer. You don’t go in and change an office when you are an intern.

              1. Observer*

                Well, BOTH things are a problem. And the attempt to force their way on another person, by sneaky methods, is a bigger problem in many ways. Because, the OP will eventually stop being an intern, but messing with others is just NOT a good idea. Your old office manager may have had the technical standing to do what she did, but it was still a REALLY bad idea. It would be even worse with someone you don’t supervise, and if done by messing with someone’s computer and not telling them, even not as an intern.

                1. Hedgehog*

                  And something that (I’m assuming) is less easily undone than just pushing the numlock key.

            3. Junior Dev*

              I use ergonomic stuff as much as possible but a lot of ergonomic keyboards are set up for conventional text, not programming. It means I often have to hunt for the special character keys and they’re I’m weird locations. My current keyboard is pretty good with this but past ones have not been good.

            4. Wendy Darling*

              I on the other hand never use the 10-key pad and prefer a keyboard without one because it takes up less space and I’m not going to use it regardless!

              So if anyone takes away your 10-key pad just come take mine.

          4. many bells down*

            I’m of an age where I missed the window for formal typing lessons. My typing form is also ridiculous and involves, at most, 4-5 of my fingers. But I’m fast, I can type without looking at the keys, and it’s not hurting anyone. Is it annoying to watch me type? Maybe. I had a boss who was a hunt-and-pecker, and it was annoying to me to watch him, so probably.

            Which reminds me; it bothers my husband to watch me write, because I’m left-handed and it looks weird and backwards to him. My handwriting is far better than his by any measure, but it LOOKS like I’m doing it wrong. Now imagine someone decided I should write right-handed like other people do after 40-some years of doing it my way.

          5. Stephanie the Great*

            I type with my index and middle fingers only, I definitely use the caps lock key as opposed to the shift key (I think it allows me to capitalize letters on the other side of the keyboard faster, since I don’t have to try to hold down the Shift key while finding the key I want to capitalize — I don’t know, it just works for me!) and then use my right thumb to press the space key, and use my left thumb to press shift when I need a special character. I type at about 75 wpm, and I don’t have to look down at my keyboard at all. I have it memorized, it works for me. If someone disabled my caps lock key, they’d quickly learn to regret the decision.

        2. Jim*

          I think the reason the person was fired was for interfering with company-owned hardware. That’s an express lane to unemployment at any workplace.

        3. SophieChotek*

          Yes, I also thought that was there the letter was going – disabling it to prevent a co-worker from sending ALL CAPS emails…so I was surprised when it was just about forcing a co-worker to learn a more efficient work flow, by disabling a way that worked for them.

      2. Julia*

        I once had a supplier we were considering send me an entire email and offer letter in lower case. Like, even my name was lower case.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          A professor in my previous department writes everything with no capitalization. He doesn’t capitalize his own name, the beginnings of sentences, nothing! When we were getting a new dean, he wrote a several-page-long document, entitled “manifesto” about the direction the school and curriculum should continue going, and it was all in lower-case stream-of-consciousness.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Well, as long as it could be read and easily understood, right? NO? I am shocked, I tell you, shocked. ;)

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was expecting a scenario like that from the title! I can’t imagine being so annoyed by someone else’s caps lock key that you actually disable it unless they have it on pretty much all the time.

      4. Hedgehog*

        I assumed from the headline that this was the reason. Someone had finally received one too many all caps emails.

      5. AC*

        When I saw the headline, I thought that this was going to be about a coworker who sends all caps emails…because I am lucky to have had such an experience a few years back

    2. CoveredInBees*

      You can reset entire keyboards if you so choose (e.g. QWERTY to Dworak set-up or utilizing accents without having to press 3 keys at once). This can be especially helpful if you have to jump between keyboard layouts at home and at the office. Same with mouse buttons. Many left-handers swap them because it is more comfortable.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Resetting the keyboard as a prank is a Very Bad Thing to do, so I hope no one is tempted to go to the language settings of a computer belonging to someone else to do this.

        Not even that person who ruined your lunch by having an hour long, loud argument with someone on the phone while wandering all around the coffee shop, paying no attention to their laptop when they took a break to yell at the person at the counter because they wanted something to be on the menu and it wasn’t.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Huh, I didn’t know how to disable caps lock, but looking at my keyboard, I see that there is just an on/off switch for it. Having never needed to disable caps lock, I just never noticed it there.

    4. Fafaflunkie*

      Trust me, I needed to do that on my work computers out of necessity. I kept hitting that BLEEPing Caps Lock key by mistake to see entire sentences typed LIKE I WAS SCREAMING, that finding the registry back to move it to key I won’t hit over and over ad nauseum (Scroll Lock was my key of choice.)

      As for OP#1 however, bad move. I oftentimes cringe how coworkers go around getting their work done on a computer (them: click drag right-click to copy some text then click right-click to paste. Me: cursors to beginning, holds Shift to copy words, ^C, Alt-Tab to program I want to paste, TAB to destination, ^V.) I do however understand people get from Point A to Point B differently. I grew up with computers in the DOS days. My coworkers haven’t.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        Edit: Should have completed the first paragraph. “…solved my problems with who the BLEEP put that BLEEPING Caps Lock key there.”

  4. KarenT*

    #1 Firing seems like a pretty strong reaction to me unless this was part of a pattern. OP you definitely overstepped, and I hope you can see that now. It’s not just messing with someone’s computer, but it also comes off a bit know-it-all-ish. She was senior to you and you should have been focusing on learning from her, not on correcting her habits even if they seem inefficient. It would be strange for even her boss to insist she type a certain way, let alone an intern. And disabling the key is a heavy handed and intrusive way to handle this. This still doesn’t seem fire-worthy to me, but I hope you learn from the experience.

    1. Artemesia*

      You are a newbie, you have a bright idea, I tell you ‘no’ I do it this way and so you ‘break my computer’ to show me your way is right. I don’t know if I would have fired her, but I think it is a reasonable approach to something this aggressively wrong footed. This wasn’t a ‘mistake’, it was insubordination and it involved messing with someone else’s work tool.

      1. RVA Cat*

        OP1 reads as male to me, just because this kind of aggressive “optimizing” behavior tends to come from dudes – especially towards women. It reminded me of the Captain Awkward story of the engineer father removing his adult daughter’s toast from the toaster in order to reinsert it the “right” way. Tampering with someone’s work computer takes that to a whole other level….

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          I’d say we should veer away from assumptions. I definitely know both men and women like this.

          1. Turquoise Cow*

            Yeah, I’ve definitely known some pushy women and did not get the male vibe at all.

        2. Beancounter Eric*

          Yeah, well both my mother and my wife take apart sandwiches I make and reassemble them because they don’t like how I assemble them. And often, it’s the sandwich on my plate.

          It’s not always men who engage in “optimizing” behaviors.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I had a woman friend get annoyed with me for putting my meat on my sandwich “messily.” Hers was perfectly flat on the bread. I’d kind of scrunched mine up…because I worked at a sandwich shop where we did that to (a) make it look like more, and (b) get heat into the inner layers while toasting. She thought I was just being a slob, but it was a habit that originally had a reason behind it.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              You and I both know that sandwiches taste better with the lunchmeat all scrunched up like that! Not really explainable, but there it is.

            2. Anion*

              I was a cocktail waitress for a while when I was twenty, and one of my fellow waitresses had a fit on me one day because, in setting up the tables, I put out the little standup menus on each and then set out the ashtrays, instead of doing it ashtrays-first.

              Why it mattered to her so much I still have no idea (she hated me anyway, though), but she was furious at my “incompetence” in setting up the tables.

          2. Artemesia*

            Yeah I do this a lot with our dishwasher since my husband will apparently never learn the right way to do it and I can get another dozen things in after he has it full. But I do keep my hands off his sandwiches, his laundry and certainly his computer.

            1. Jaydee*

              Same here! I think the dishwasher is a fairly frequent example of women “aggressively optimizing.” Because facing all the bowls backward DOES NOT GET THEM CLEAN!!! (oops…sorry for the sudden yelling…I should disable my caps lock).

                1. Stephanie the Great*

                  Because it’s faster to rearrange the dishes that have been pre-rinsed than it is to rinse and scrape and possibly soak and then put them all in the dishwasher, or try to teach and explain to the person doing the dishes why it’s more effective to do it one way. Maybe she’s grateful that the gross part is done, and now all she needs to do is quickly turn the bowls facing the proper way. My boyfriend always does the dishes for me, and he never loads it right, but I don’t say anything because he did the hard part. So what if I have to reorganize the bowls in a way that I prefer?

                  There’s no reason to be so paternalistic.

                2. Katelyn*

                  because things are put in as they are used to keep the kitchen tidy, but are rearranged for optimal cleanliness just before the load is run? That’s my reason anyways (and sometimes I’m optimizing my own loading because I don’t know at the start that we will be using the extra large salad bowl when my MIL comes by unexpectedly, but now it needs to be accounted for)

                3. Susana*

                  Hmmm..is it possible that’s the point? Oh, honey, I’m just a klutz with the vacuum. You do it so much better, anyway.

        3. Oryx*

          I had a female coworker “optimize” my entire work area to make it more convenient for her on the one day she had to cover for me. Moved furniture around and everything so please let’s refrain from making gendered assumptions.

        4. TootsNYC*

          yeah, I see plenty of aggressive “optimizing” behavior from women! I don’t think this is gender specific. And I think in my own experience, I’ve encountered way more women who do it.

        5. RVA Cat*

          Point taken. Either way, it’s somebody being disrespectful and having no boundaries. Your keyboard or your sandwich is None of Their Business!

        6. Serin*

          Ohh, not so much. I’m a (mostly) reformed optimizer. You should have seen me when my kid started driving. “If — never mind. You could — never mind. You do see — never mind.”

        7. Relly*

          I realize that stereotypes are unhelpful, but I think the important half of “male engineer” is not “male” but “engineer.”

          Source: I am married to a lovely, wonderful engineer who would totally stress out if I used the caps lock key instead of shift because it is not as EFFICIENT and you should at least TRY it my way do you not even realize how many microseconds you could save???????

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            I have coworkers who click into every field when filling in a form online or in our database or wherever instead of using tab, but I still refrain from pushing them to use tab, even though it’s a hundred times faster.

            1. sap*

              I’ve actually started clicking in rather than using tabs because I’ve encountered so many poorly designed websites where hitting tab actually doesn’t change the field/skipped a field that I have now come to the conclusion that it’s less efficient because of all the mistake fixing tab requires. So this one may be an efficiency.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Sometimes the preset tab order is not in the same order as my thinking. So there is that, too.

        8. Misc*

          I’ve definitely seen this behaviour from a lot of guys (more than not, generally), but one of the worst cases I ever experienced was female.

          I used to be a library shelver. I was officially one of the fastest/most efficient shelvers at any of the places I worked at, and had figured out exactly the right system for organising books in my cart and then getting them onto the shelf with maximum efficiency (I’m ADHD and have exactly zero tolerance for boredom, which means a LOT of time trying to make things even faster or occupying my brain analysing problems). I did this for years, and never had any interference from a manager beyond ‘do those books over there’ or ‘stop reading please’. It’s a very straightforward job, you do it well, or you don’t.

          Until… I had a very temporary female manager who decided to micromanage the order of books in my cart from day one (not even waiting to see if I shelved ‘too slowly’ or anything). Not only did she tell me the best way to organise them in her opinion, she kept coming and checking my cart! She probably hadn’t shelved in years, it just Bugged Her that I was Doing It Wrong.

          Let’s just say it didn’t end well, and it’s a good thing she was temporary. But I’d have happily taken up the challenge of Proving Which Method Is Fastest if she’d kept pushing, and she would have lost.

          Nitpicking on minor things that MIGHT improve someone’s workflow but would require time and effort for them to adapt to, or might actually not work FOR THEM as well as the observer expects because there are a bunch of other factors in play is never, ever a good strategy. Suggest it, let the user take a look and maybe try it on their own, and move on. If they can’t try it for themselves, it won’t work.

          And did I mention working in libraries? Explaining incredibly basic computer usage was a large part of that. I literally explained the space bar to people. You just don’t force people to do it your way, if they’ve figured out something that works for them, you just don’t. Either they’re competent and don’t need to be forced, or they’re not competent and are balancing very precariously and don’t need to be pushed off balance.

    2. Paul*

      I honestly don’t think it’s that out of line. I can see firing, or I can see not firing, but I wouldn’t consider it all that disproportionate. You don’t screw around with your coworkers/supervisor’s machines and set ups. And deciding that you know best and you’ll make everyone do it the way you think is most efficient come hell or high water is bad in a manager in a lot of cases, let alone an intern.

      1. Jessica*

        Tampering with someone else’s equipment in order to interfere with their work is, in my mind, a firing offense. It really doesn’t matter why, if the end result is that the coworker’s performance and efficiency is affected.

        I am also personally boggled at the audacity of an intern who works somewhere for 3 months and is such a micromanager that he or she tries to dictate how a person types, to the extent of going behind their back to screw with their hardware. WOW. Dear intern: as long as a coworker delivers their work according to agreed-upon expectations and processes, it doesn’t matter what their personal methodology is.

        At least getting fired for it should make the lesson sink in, one hopes.

        1. Kate 2*

          Less than 3 months actually, they were only a month into their term there when they did this and got fired!

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, I’ve told the story here before about a coworker getting fired for going into another coworkers office and reading their instant messages (then later cussing them out). A big part of that firing was them going onto someone else’s computer, not just the cussing at coworker part. Big no no in general.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think being an intern definitely put OP at a disadvantage in this situation. Also, Very Good Employee was upset, that was strike two. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “Don’t upset my excellent employee.”
        I can see a boss quickly concluding, “This intern stuff is too much work. I am done.”

    3. Lori*

      This issue could have been looked at by the employer as a security issue (the reason for the firing). If she was willing to overstep the boundaries to do the disabling of the caps lock key, then what else would she be comfortable doing that she wasn’t supposed to. It is a matter of trust would be the company’s point of view especially for an intern who they consider to be lowest status (similar to probationary status).

      1. Susanne*

        It’s not necessarily the actual disabling of the caps-lock key that is the offense, in my opinion. To me, the bigger issue is that you didn’t understand your “place” as an intern. Your place as an intern was to learn from others about the business world and/or your particular industry, not to become the corrector-of-others. To be clear, I think it’s great that you suggested a more-efficient way to her — that type of thing can and should be welcome. It is the pushing-the-solution-on-her that was the offensive part; it says that you didn’t fully understand that your place was low-man-on-the-totem-pole. Youthful enthusiasm is great; youthful bossiness isn’t so great.

        1. Jesca*

          I don’t even know if it was a “place” thing. I think it just showed (and maybe there were other instances) that the OP was a little controlling and intrusive. It also likely might have been the last straw if the OP was found focusing on minor pet peeves as opposed to the actual work. This is how I would take it, OP. This was a definite “Let it go” situation. Don’t let other people’s minor habits derail you from what is important!

          1. Susana*

            Actually, interns aren’t there to give *any* lessons. They’re there to learn.
            And this argument that not using caps lock is more efficient – it’s not, necessarily. For some people, holding down shift takes as much time/effort as clicking all caps on and off.

            I also find it unbelievably creepy that any co-worker – let alone an intern – would be paying attention to someone else’s typing style. Bad sign.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      I’m not sure I’d fire an employee for it, but I would have a different standard for interns. Certain things that I wouldn’t accept from an employee are learning moments for interns, but certain issues with someone who is there a short period (and often requires extra resources to train and supervise during that time) aren’t worth the effort of ironing out.

    5. LurkerBerserker*

      One analogy I can think of that might illustrate to OP1 how much of an overstep this was, using a more “advanced” keyboard efficiency example:

      Imagine if you had a co-worker explaining that Qwerty is an antiquated and inefficient keyboard layout, which you agree with, but you explain that you’ll continue to use it. Then you come to work and find that your keyboard has been swapped to Dvorak. Yes, learning Dvorak might make you a faster typist in the long run. But this kind of invasive and unsolicited “help” would not only slow you down for a while, it’s also just totally unpleasant.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        And now imagine that the Big Deadline is looming. You take on these kind of self-improvement, “sharpen your saw” projects when you have extra time, not whenever the summer intern decides it’s time for you to improve.

  5. CAA*

    #3 – a lot of companies have zero tolerance policies on porn and there are scanning programs that will find it on your computer. I have had to fire people at two different companies for violating this policy and both were found by routine IT scans. One guy did not know that his files were being backed up to a shared server, and the other guy had a lot of inappropriate files in his browser cache on a government issued laptop. In both cases the policy and the consequences had been delivered in written form in advance and the employees had signed off on receiving the info.

    Please follow Alison’s advice and get your own personal device to take on your trips.

    1. KarenT*

      Purely out of curiosity (and not because my work computer is full of porn!) how does an IT scan find porn? Is it file names, fIle types or is there more to it?

      1. Magenta Sky*

        File names are often a clue. Anything with “xxx” in the file name, or anything suggestive, is a sure sign. Also, any time you see a directory full of video files or images, not associated with an approved program, it will raise suspicions.

        Some companies also install continuous monitoring software that will immediately report off behavior.

        1. Matt*

          There also seem to be some quite good image recognition software out there today. Have you ever noticed on Facebook, if pics happen to be slow on loading, the alternative text describing mostly accurately what’s in the image? (“1 person with glasses, probably smiling, with cat”) … Don’t know if this is something that employers routinely use in search for porn …

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Google has an API (I think that’s what it’s called?) you can use to flag obscene images.

            In my experience it also flags a lot of pictures of kittens.

            1. Fifty Foot Commute*

              My iPhone has curated a “selfie” album that is mostly pictures of cats. Sometimes I’m in them too, but always cats.

                1. Jerusha*

                  Ack! Naomi KRITZER, not Naomi Novik! And it’s even right there in the URL staring at me.

            2. Creag an Tuire*

              “Dammit, Google, when I said I was uploading a picture of my roommate stroking her puss that isn’t what I meant.”

          2. Kelly L.*

            I’ve heard there’s a software that detects whether a video is more than a certain percent made up of skin tones. And also that some people got around it by tweaking their settings so everyone looks green.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I’m just rereading Old Man’s War and I feel like there’s a CDF joke lurking in here somewhere…

              1. JeanB in NC*

                I just started rereading that too, just last night. I always wonder what shade of green they are – like forest green, apple green, khaki green? (The last one would be hideous.)

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  IIRC it’s described at one point as being light and not terribly glaring; I’ve always pictured something along the lines of the darker parts of iceberg lettuce.

            2. Misc*

              Oooh, that reminds me of the Star Trek anecdote about the tech department adjusting all the green out of the test recordings because they thought it was a camera issue and didn’t realise it was makeup :D

        2. Zombii*

          Do people still download porn? I assumed OP had meant going to porn sites, which, sure, is a huge virus risk—but Tumblr’s so full of the stuff I haven’t bothered to have an actual porn folder on my laptop for ages.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It would be in your cache, though, and even if you clear that, isn’t it still on your “permanent record” somewhere?

            1. The Other Katie*

              Not if you use incognito mode, but I still think the OP should get their own device. (There may be other monitoring mechanisms in place.)

              1. Kali*

                My work devices don’t have incognito and we can’t delete our history. That was a fun lesson to learn (for nonporn related reasons thank god).

          2. sunny-dee*

            Certain sites could be blocked or monitored by the company networks. A lot of my work is done over VPN, and while a lot of non-work sites are accessible (like this one) there are ones that were blocked. I clicked a link off a company-approved site to read an article on Bleeding Cool and found out it is a blocked site. Even if you’re not on a VPN or company network, I’d always assume that IT has a backdoor login into my system, anyway.

            And, of course, if IT ever gets hold of your laptop or you back up data to a company location, you’re also screwed.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        There are a lot of methods – known file names, file names with certain terms, web traffic monitoring, image analysis software, even having a large number of image and video files can be a flag the computer is being used for personal stuff. If you signed an acceptable use policy, your organization may have stated it there.

        Porn is also a significant source of virus/malware. Our acceptable use policy says it’s not acceptable on work computers, and all employees have to sign off in acceptable use to be issued a machine.

    2. MillersSpring*

      Good grief. People need porn so much that they can’t contemplate a work trip without it?

      1. TL -*

        Some people travel 3 weeks out of 4 or go on months long business trip and either way, what you do in the privacy of your own hotel room is your business (just keep it off the work devices.)

      2. Kim D.*

        So what? Let people enjoy what they enjoy. It can get lonely in a hotel and not everyone is into sudoku.

      3. Susanne*

        I agree with MillersSpring. You’ve got a real problem if you can’t handle a work trip without it.

        BTW, my company fired someone after they noticed heavy streaming usage attributed to him. Turns out he was doing his regular work on his computer, but had brought in a personal laptop and was using the company internet / wifi to download porn onto it all day while he worked. What a stupid move. He did good work, but he’ll never get a good recommendation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, can we not be so judgy of this kind of thing? The OP didn’t say they couldn’t handle the trip without it; they just asked a question.

        2. Jill of All Trades*

          I mean, if you’re going on a 2-3 month work trip and your partner is remaining at home…people have needs. Let’s not judge the OP, please. They know how to fulfill their needs better than we do.

        3. JM60*

          It’s stupid to use your employer’s resources to download that content, but it’s even stupider for that company to automatically fire someone who was doing good work for that reason. The fact that it was adult material that was going through the wifi doesn’t affect the company’s bottom line any more than if it were non adult material, unless there’s some kind of sexual harassment element to it (e.g., watching the material at work).

          1. sunny-dee*

            It is totally reasonable and not at all stupid to fire someone for accessing porn at work. There’s the sexual harassment angle, the IT security angle, the risk of illegality.

            1. JM60*

              If by ‘access’ you mean watch, then yes, firing for that can be pretty reasonable for the harassment angle. But that’s why I included the caveat sexual harassment at the very end of my post. However, the person I was responding to said nothing only mentioned downloading it using the company’s Internet. It’s not clear if he was streaming videos, downloading torrents, downloading files from Usenet, etc. If the extent of him ‘accessing’ it was him downloading a pre-planned batch of files to his own computer, that’s not harassment, which is generally the biggest issue when it comes to porn at work. And considering that he’s downloading it to his own device, it poses little security threat unless the person is a moron when it comes computer security.

          2. Toph*

            In the past at companies I’ve worked for the IT policy explicitly forbid streaming or downloading video in general, unless it were approved for a work purpose. Guy could’ve been downloading Finding Nemo and still would’ve been in major trouble. Every time there was a report of the wifi suddenly being incredibly slow, track it down, it’s someone downloading tons of movies. I think it’s entirely reasonable to discipline an employee for breaking that rule, up to an including firing, even if they were otherwise doing good work. The sexual component makes it worse, but it’s not the only reason this is a stupid thing to do at work.

            1. JM60*

              If your company has shortages of bandwidth, then such a policy would make sense. But I think that firing someone is a very extreme reaction.

              As for the sexual component, yes, people shouldn’t access sexual material at work. However, the main issue with viewing porn at work, sexual harassment, isn’t much of an issue if the extent of them accessing the material is clicking the resume button on a batch of downloads. And the other main concern, security, is about as much of a problem as if he downloaded the material at home the night before. After all, since it’s his own computer, the main security risk is his computer being infected by malware that can propagate through a LAN.

      4. blushingflower*

        I take a vibrator with me when I travel for work. I don’t always use it, but it’s a reliable method of stress relief and it often helps me sleep when I’m in an unfamiliar bed.

        1. Havarti*

          Never had the guts to pack one in my suitcase. After someone posted that the TSA left them a message in their suitcase commenting on their items… Nope. Nope nope nope. D:

          1. Howdy Do*

            I’ve packed all manner of “marital aid” and I’ve had them questioned when TSA was rooting around in my bad but I have zero guilt or shame about it and just say “It’s a vibrator.” I mean, they’re all up in people’s underwear and xraying folks, I really am not worried about their judgement.

        2. Jessica*

          Yeah, but a vibrator will presumably never be used as a work device or logged onto a work network.

          1. OhNo*

            I dunno, they do have wifi and bluetooth-connected toys now. Anything could happen.

            How embarrassing would that be, trying to explain to IT that accidentally synced your work tablet with your Vibemaster 6000?

      5. JM60*

        This probably varies greatly from person to person, but not wanting to forgo adult material for a half week doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an issue. A lot of people, especially men, consume it more often than that. Of course, if you’re so addicted to it that you’re willing to jeopardize your job over it, then you have a problem (and Alison’s advice of bringing or buying your own device is best).

      6. Misc*

        Or maybe they just want to know because they don’t usually worry about what they click on? Or don’t want to rule out an option for personal entertainment because there’s literally nothing else to do, just because they happen to be stuck somewhere for business? Or they like reading/watching stuff that’s NSFWish and don’t want to worry about whether it might officially be considered ‘porn’ if their boss looked at it? I’m asexual and I still end up with a LOT of NSFW content crossing my screen.

      7. Ex-IT Ace*

        Yeah, that amazes and dismays me too.. I suppose I always thought adults had more sense and self control. Porn just doesn’t belong on a workplace-owned device, regardless of whether that device is commonly shared with others or not.
        I used to work in IT for a hospital, back before there was software that could be installed over a network to check for porn on employee devices. While repairing a malfunctioning 486 for a supervisor in Maintenance, I found his HD just stuffed with highly disturbing, grotesque, horrible child porn (ALL child porn is disgusting and disturbing and horrific, but this was particularly terrible and perverse). I brought it to the attention of my boss, who looped HR in on it, who called the police. This was before most small town police jurisdictions had anyone on staff who knew how to handle computers, let alone computer crimes, and I had to be the one to assist the police with categorising and creating copies of those repulsive, disgusting images for use during court. And I was called to testify against the perverted creep.

        My shock over the fact that so many adults seem to have such little self-control regarding porn may have a lot to do with my being asexual though. I don’t use porn at all, and never have, so maybe I am the one who is the odd one out here.

    3. let the moose loose!*

      OP3: on a more helpful note, if you can’t have your own device for whatever reason, you could just use a live Linux on a USB key. It’s essentially a full-blown OS on a key and does not use the hard drive to store files (unless you choose to save something, which in this case would be unwise) and leaves no traces on the HDD for anyone to uncover.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Uh, I’m not sure it’s helpful to coach someone in how to use work devices to view porn. Aside from the whole, “your company owns your device and has a right to inspect it, monitor its use, and do the same for any peripherals (including a USB key)” thing, accessing porn on company devices can cause massive security issues, as well. And to be honest, 99% of people are not as slick at this as they think they are. From an employment-safety perspective (i.e., how not to get fired), it’s way better to approach devices as if all your activity—not just internet activity or activity over a company network—is being recorded and monitored by your employer.

        Just don’t do it, OP#3. Please, for the love of Pete, don’t do it!

        1. The IT Crowd*

          From a purely hypothetical perspective, using a live Linux session would have a significantly lower chance of causing a security concern than using your standard Windows install

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Plugging a USB in is often against terms of use policies though, so I don’t think that’s viable.

            1. blackcat*

              Even if a USB thumb drive is allowed, the “boot the computer with an alternate OS” will be frowned upon.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          Also plugging a USB key with a bootable OS into work hardware sounds like a *really* good way to get in hot water with IT to me. My former employer did not care one iota what I did on my work laptop (and I went on a lot of business trips and used that thing to watch a lot of netflix) and I suspect would have ignored if I’d accessed porn (not that I would ever), but they would have nuked me from orbit if I’d plugged a bootable linux USB key into my machine. That just screams “I want to do nefarious things with the file system”.

          1. Jenny*

            Yeah any security risk to the computer system is the one thing they will fire for immediately at my job and I am sure many others. Both the solution you propose and downloading porn would run afoul of the policy.
            Huuuuuuge no no.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes, this is a good example of when your company won’t care one whit for your intentions or your technical comprehension of what you were doing.

              Buy a tablet.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, this was my concern with the “solution” proposed—it almost always violates other policies put in place by an employer to minimize security risks… including concerns about theft of confidential files/info—running an alternate OS, ime, is a great way to trigger fears that you’re doing something shady with data, which is a different world of problems than porn.

          3. nonegiven*

            Or it could scream I want private, secure access to my banking sites. Some security experts have advised never accessing online banking without live linux.

      2. sap*

        Yeah. I am a technology lawyer and my husband designs interweb security, and both of us always suggest to employers that don’t have policies on USB drive usage that they develop them (and that the policy is “you can only use one we gave you”). If OP’s company has any sort of competent monitoring, this workaround would cause way more of a red flag + investigation since corrupted USB stick are insanely common and one of the easiest ways to get into a secure network. While OP might not get caught with streaming the porn (but shouldn’t do it anyway), if the company noticed booting from a USB device they would investigate the hell out of that and definitely catch the porn.

        Never, ever try this with your work device; at most places this could easily be a first time fireable offense (for the same reason that someone above noted that if O 1 disabled capslock with a registry edit, that was rightly a first time fireable offense.)

    4. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Yes – please don’t do this. It’s 101% not worth the risk to your job. Bring your own device, go old school and rent a DVD, or whatever you need to do but absolutely don’t do it on your work computer.

    5. Jesca*

      The biggest issue with porn is malware and viruses. This is why you shouldn’t use your work computer. Use a device that you are ok with having to fix yourself. Even the trusted sites can get pretty easily infected.

      1. JM60*

        Porn poses very little security risk when the user is competent. The risk of getting malware through a browser is very low if the user doesn’t do anything stupid (like downloading and running a file that the site says they need to install), the software is kept up to date, and your using a decent anti-virus. Of course, even a little risk can be too much in certain lines of work.

      1. zora*

        Well, in countries other than the US, devices often aren’t as cheap as they are here. But finding the cheapest smart phone you can find, and using it only over wifi, seems like a good investment in this case.

    6. sap*

      I’m going to just leave this funny story about workplace porn use here:

      At my old job, I worked with a good friend of mine (friendship predating the job and at the same level). He is a gay man.

      He had a long term project that, at the time I left, had lasted at least 2 years that required him to watch and analyze a shitload of lice action and still pornography, most of it about women. He had an office with a closing door, but he was constantly afraid that someone who didn’t know about the project would see what he was watching and complain about it. I said that if anybody thought that as a gay man he was enjoying watching that many close-ups of ladyparts, the complaint would be pretty funny to have HR address.

      (Sometimes he would ask me “wait is this a real sex thing women do?” I learned about more things I never, ever want done to my lady bits from that gay dude than I have from any weird creeper I have ever been on a bad date with).

      1. sap*

        Live action, not lice action, but I guess with Rule 34… That may also have been a thing.

        1. Kali*

          I just spent an entire paraphraph stressing over what lice action was in relation to porn/vaginas.

  6. K.A.*

    #1: It seems that you acted like you were there to teach that woman how to do things when in fact you were there to learn. Alison’s right. You overstepped. You don’t get to mess with how someone else does their work.

  7. Positivity*

    #1, I want to reply to you before the inevitable comment swarm starts.

    We all make mistakes. I also lost a job because I made a mistake similar to yours, but I learned from it. You’re not a bad person and you will likely do well in life if you can learn from your mistakes.

    I know that all we know about you is that you had an internship and you got fired because of the caps lock incident. If there’s a comment pile on, which there will likely be, I hope you still take Alison’s advice and realize that we all make mistakes.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh. When lots of people weigh in with a similar message, it’s not inherently a pile-on so much as it just reflects the fact that there are a zillion commenters here.

      1. Fire*

        Yeah, there’s definitely been times when I start a comment and there’s only like ten comments on the page and then I post my comment and there’s a TON of comments and I’m really far down the list. And I type fast! A lot can be posted between first loading a page, reading the post, and then commenting.

  8. regular who wants to be anon*

    OP #3: I also travel for work a lot and I get the impulse. But when I take only company devices with me, I am very, very, very careful about the sites I visit, even if I open incognito/private browser windows. Certain things, like adult video sites, nsfw fanfiction, and my banking accounts, I won’t look at on company devices. Of course, this is a do-at-your-own-risk situation, but think of it as the computers at the public library that everyone can use. Do you really want to be that person looking at porn at the public library?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously, I cannot even count the number of times I’ve seen people watching/responding to porn on public library computers. I imagine it’s much worse for librarians.

        1. Drew*

          I have a friend who is a librarian, and you are correct: it is worse. Cleaning the files off the computer is not the worst part of what she has to deal with.

        2. aebhel*

          It is. I catch people at it on public PC’s that are in full view of the main desk… like, what did you think was going to happen?!

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          You are correct. I have an acquaintance who is a public library branch manager, and her stories can be harrowing. She describes her job as 10% collection curration, 25% information management, 15% career counseling/technology educator, 40% social worker, and 10% janitorial work.

        4. Cassandra*

          Several of my public-librarian friends (and one or two academic-librarian friends working in undergraduate-focused libraries) tell me about patrons who specifically choose computers whose monitors are within sight of the reference and/or circ desks to watch porn on.

          It’s even happened to some of our students on internships.

          DO NOT BE THAT PERSON, PLEASE. That’s well into harassment.

          1. aebhel*

            That definitely happens. And it’s sort of ridiculous, since after the fifth or sixth time it happens, it’s not even shocking. It’s just ‘Sir… that’s a violation of our clearly posted computer policy. I’m blocking your card and I’ll have to ask you to leave now.”

            I’ve had many a disappointed patron who was hoping for a shocked!! face!!

            1. Electric Hedgehog*

              Isn’t it technically protected though? Thought I had seen some court ruling in favor of the porno-fiend at a library.

              It’s super gross.

              1. aebhel*

                Our terms and conditions for both WiFi and public PCs state that library resources cannot be used to access explicit materials as defined by the code of the village that is our tax district. My understanding is that we’re generally allowed to enforce those terms, although to be fair none of our porn-fiends have taken us to court over it.

              2. Howdy Do*

                It’s an ongoing debate in libraries. I am a very liberal, sex positive free speech kind of person (and I think in theory I’d agree it’s protected speech) but the only time I’ve been happy to live in a conservative state has been working in a public library where the computers all use a filtering system but my understanding is that isn’t the norm other places (the ALA is also against filtering I believe.) We could override it if something was blocked erroneously but it also meant that I had to kick people off for porn so much less often. Clearly, people are viewing the stuff in public to incorporate the other patrons and staff (against their will) into their sexual experience and it feels quite icky.

                1. aebhel*

                  My library doesn’t use filtering software except in the children’s room, but we are allowed to kick people off for viewing porn. Adults using computers with filtering have the legal right to request that the filters be turned off, but AFAIK that doesn’t mean they have a legal right (at least on the federal level) to use the library computers to watch porn.

              3. Kali*

                My mother works in a public library in Massachusetts. She is obligated to ask patrons napping inside for warmth to leave, but watching porn is allowed, and the staff have strict instructions that they cannot prohibit anyone from watching it. I was totally shocked when I learned this.

                The one time I went to visit her at work, an older man was asking her to help him print out the Wikipedia page of his favorite actress, who was a porn star. I asked “what are there odds” and she rolled her eyes and told me “pretty good.”

                1. Starbuck*

                  Yeah, I discovered something similar at college when a guy nearby (with monitor in clear view of a walkway & lots of other students) was viewing/downloading explicit porn… I went to the front desk to tell someone (assuming it was against the rules, and not wanting to see it myself) and the person manning the desk said they couldn’t forbid it, noting that there were classes on human sexuality taught on campus. Fair enough, but I still don’t think it should ever be acceptable to view pornography in public. If you can’t legally have sex in that spot, I don’t think you should be watching videos of it there either.

              4. Candi*

                It depends on what district you’re in.

                There’s somewhere down in CA that has watching porn in public at the library protected under ‘free speech’ by court decision. Yes, where kids can see. (The commentator on the Not Always Right story only identified it as a large city in south CA. She stated she worked at such a library.)

                On the flip side, my state is not particularly conservative. But our county library system sidestepped the whole issue by pointing out that porn sites are notorious for viruses and other nasty bugs, including ones where the connection is enough to present a risk of infection. Dealing with the infection would mean using resources funded by taxpayers and donors to clean the computers and servers.

                They got permission to block and kick people off.

                The flip side is they have to do the same for other high-risk sites, even SFW ones. So a church or charitable website done with great enthusiasm but poor security? That can get blocked as well.

                It just depends on where you are.

        5. Misc*

          Hahaha, we used to have students sneak into a side room for porn (very against policy and they knew it), but people snitched on them so I got to go kick them out. They were always kinda confused about how the librarian Just Knew. My favourite was the one who needed tech support help with his actual assignment and had 20 tabs with Obvious Pron Titles visible and was completely flabbergasted at my amazing librarian mindreading when I told him he wasn’t allowed to access porn.

      2. FD*

        I once had to tell a person on our lobby computer at hotel that he couldn’t watch porn there. In view of all of the other people coming and going.

        ………….Now that I think about it, I wonder if that was WHY he was doing it? I assumed at the time he was just an idiot.

    1. Anon55*

      +100000 for “the impulse” haha!!

      Yes definitely get your own tablet for something like this, OP. Beyond the obvious concern of someone finding it, do you ever think you’re pasting a link into an email and find that you accidentally forgot to hit copy and are now pasting something totally random? You don’t want “totally random” to be porn, am I right?

      1. Wendy Darling*

        You can get a basic Kindle Fire for like $50. I have one in my kitchen. Its name is Recipe Book, and it exists to be cheap in case I slip and dump a pot of boiling water on it on accident.

        It’s not a great tablet but it’s quite functional and very inexpensive!

        1. Marzipan*

          They were even cheaper on Prime Day. Like £25 or something. I think my colleague bought one, he was like ‘might as well’.

    2. Paul*

      I know our security and I know (roughly) what measures our IT contractors take to handle company PC stuff.

      Incognito does nothing to keep your web browsing from them. Just…trust me. I don’t know *how* it all works mind you, but it does. I do use an incognito tab to browse our local paper sometimes (you get one free story per month on their website, but incognito apparently gets around it–not very sophisticated!) while traveling.

      On the flip side, provided the connection is secure, I feel pretty safe using my bank website on a work device while traveling; we’re fairly secure :)

      1. GermanGirl*

        Incognito mode just means that the browser doesn’t save your history. So the next person sitting at the computer wouldn’t see which sites you looked at in the drop-down of the address bar or the recently closed tabs or the history page.

        But whoever has access to your internet connection (e.g. a company proxy server, a company-installed logging script on your work computer, or even the router of the internet access point you happen to use) can still log all the requests you made from your browser.

        As for banking, the banking site hopefully uses a certified https (most browsers mark the https green if it is certified). This means the data you send (password, how much money to transfer to where) is encrypted, but when you connected to the site and how many requests you sent is visible to anyone monitoring your internet connection.

        Also, a vicious company admin could theoretically install a keylogger on your computer, which would allow her to read everything you typed including your passwords.

    3. seejay*

      Also: porn sites contain viruses. And malware. And stupid popups that install crap onto your browser and hard drive. You might think you’re smart or avoiding it, but all it takes is one mistake and tada, you’ve touched the poop.

      Do you *really* want to be that guy who infected the office with a virus or malware or accidentally sent confidential files/data out because you got hacked or back-doored because you wanted to surf some porn while you were travelling for work? That’d be fun to explain to your IT/security team.

      There’s more to online porn than naughty pictures. If you can’t go without, get your own tablet or buy an old fashioned magazine.

      1. JM60*

        I agree that there is a valid security concern and that being your own device is the way to go. However, I do want to point out that while adult sites tend to have more malware, it’s not an issue intrinsic to, or exclusive to, adult material.

        Porn poses very little security risk when the user is competent. The risk of getting malware through a browser is very low if the user doesn’t do anything stupid (like downloading and running a file that the site says they need to install), the software is kept up to date, and your using a decent anti-virus. Of course, even a little risk can be too much in certain lines of work.

    4. Oryx*

      Like the Chrome incognito browser says: you aren’t invisible and going incognito doesn’t hide it from your employer.

  9. So Very Anonymous*

    #1: When I was in college, I had a roommate who dealt with her anxiety by cleaning. And I’m a messy-desk person. I’d have materials for my history paper, say, all over my desk. I’d come back from somewhere and find my desk totally clean with no clue where my papers, index cards (yes, I’m old), etc. were ARRRRGGH. Don’t mess with people’s workflows.

    Something I wondered about, also: were you regularly using her computer for some work-related reason, or did you use her computer just to disable the caps lock key? If you don’t usually use her computer, the optics you sitting at her computer fiddling with it aren’t good. For all you know your colleague may have had confidential materials on her computer.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Meant to add: this is not meant to pile on, but the comment about using her computer jumped out at me. You’re early in your career and this is a mistake you can easily learn not to repeat :)

    2. KarenT*

      That’s a really big point. How the OP gained access may have played a role in how seriously this was perceived.

      1. So Very Anonymous*


        Also, if I’m the employee, I am going to be wondering why someone is watching my fingers as I type…

        1. Jen RO*

          One of my coworkers uses Caps instead of Shift and it’s very noticeable, trust me. It only took 5 minutes of watching her type while I was training her.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            I’ve looked at a friend doing the CapsLock thing and it was painful to see. Like someone trying to fell a tree using a jagged knife. Still, it was their tree, not mine. And, besides that, they seem very competent with the knife so I just let them be.

            1. Jen RO*

              Yeah, exactly – their “knife” seems to work well. My coworker is fully aware that her Caps Lock usage is weird, but trying to change would slow her down too much.

              My only beef is that, because of this non-standard usage, she also remapped some keys, so whenever I go to her computer I can’t figure out how to paste something!

              (Before this gets misinterpreted – I use her computer when we do hands-on training.)

            2. Mookie*

              (Re the capslock v shift key, it’s a small hands- and/or mobility issue, for some folk, same as being unable to [conventionally] finger an octave on a piano.)

              1. Hekko*

                In some cases it may also be dependant on what letters/characters you need to type. On the Czech keyboard, most of the special letters of our alphabet (like ř or ý) are located where numbers are on a standard English keyboard. Pressing the keys with shift gets me a number, pressing them with caps lock on gets me capitalised special letter (Ř or Ý). I can get the same with shift using 2 keys in succession, but caps lock is more convenient for me.

                Though that’s more a curious factoid at this point. :)

                1. Clewgarnet*

                  Oh, THAT’S why I couldn’t figure out where the special letters were! I resort to copy-and-pasting when typing Czech…

              2. Jenny*

                I thought of that. I have small hands and bought of tendinitis. My typing habit are set so i don’t use capslock but i could see doing it on a bad hand day. Some days separating the pinky finger from the rest of your fingers hurts.

              3. Sarianna*

                Thia is why I use CapsLock. I know it’s less efficient, even though I still type around 75wpm. But I buy my winter gloves from the children’s section because even the small women’s ones are too big, and I also have a condition that affects my joints. Using shift is a whole lot less comfortable and tends to put me on the pain train ahead of schedule.

                1. Mookie*

                  I don’t even really see it as sub-optimal because, as you say, once you hit an error-free 60+ wpm in English without harming yourself, you’re fine, irrespective of how non-standard the method is. “Home” position varies for so many people, and sweeping across the keyboard to avoid pinky action — particularly for left-handers using QWERTY — just comes naturally, I think. My generation never received much in the way of touch-type training, ditto “cursive,” and to my eyes we don’t seem any better or worse off for it. Great equalizer, soft modern keyboards are.

                2. Stephanie the Great*

                  Yep. My hands are small. It’s more comfortable to me than it is to weirdly stretch across the keyboard to hold the shift key and the key I want to capitalize. My way works for me, I type faster and more accurately than most people I work with (which is how I end up designated note-taker, unfortunately…).

          2. Observer*

            Yes, but you were training her, so you were watching what she was doing far more closely than one would expect a co-worker to do.

    3. MillersSpring*

      I similarly get annoyed when people right click and select Paste instead of typing Ctrl-V, but I would never touch their computer or disable the function.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Recently I had someone tell me to use right click as control V does a weird thing in a program we use. I explained I have been using this shortcut for as long as I can remember and it is automatic so even if I want to do it another way I will do that. They said something about being more flexible. Through gritted teeth I explained, again, that it was implicit memory and I couldn’t just suddenly do it differently.

        1. MadGrad*

          I think your example points out the key issue here: in the LWs case, this isn’t something that actually matters. When your boss asks you to go through the effort of taking your time and beating down a habit for a work reason, it makes sense to do it. Otherwise, if it isn’t that big a deal and your boss doesn’t care, the time and effort to change is more of a bother than whatever inefficiency it’s trying to fix. Sabotaging your coworker’s workflow in secret for a pet peeve is way inappropriate.

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          If I’m doing something that’s right-hand-intensive (like using the keypad a lot) I might have a coffee in my left hand and it’s easier to use my right hand on the mouse for the right click + copy/past. Sometimes It’s just the way I’m sitting and I don’t feel like getting my left hand involved for the keyboard shortcuts, since the a/c/v are on that side.

        3. 0phen*

          I am now wondering how in the world a developer could think it was a good idea to assign any action other than copy to crtl+v.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            It’s actually a bug. They suggested I use right-click. Not going to happen. Too ingrained!

        4. Nea*

          Through gritted teeth I explained, again, that it was implicit memory and I couldn’t just suddenly do it differently.

          At the risk of derailing, this is one of the reasons why I give scorching side-eye to people who decide that “one space after a period” is a hill both they and I need to die on. Child, I was using a manual typewriter longer than you’ve been alive and most browsers/word processors eliminate the extra space anyway. It’s not a hill to die on, it’s not even a riser step to stub a toe on, and I’m a very fast typist even with all those extra spaces.

          1. sam*

            I’m the same way. It’s basically muscle memory at this point, and no matter how much I “know” I shouldn’t do it, it just automatically happens. I work on some “shared” documents with other departments where one space after the period is the general rule (these are filings we do with the government and people across the company work on them), so what I do is just type the way I want, and then go back at the end and do a find/replace for the “period-space-space” and replace it with a “period-space” for my sections.

            Someone else who is in charge of the document does this as well for the entire document, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who does things like this. But I try to be responsible for my stuff :)

            1. teclatrans*

              I have tried to switch to a single space after periods, but muscle memory kicks in, and I end up with about 1/3 single and 2/3 double. The frustrating thing is that the single space is sort of becoming muscle memory too, so everything I type now has a mixture of styles. Find/replace is definitely my friend.

            2. DecorativeCacti*

              I edit documents all day long and the very first thing I do is find/replace double periods. No one else would ever notice (or care) but it makes me feel better. Aside from the occasional heart attack when I turn on hidden characters, it’s really not a big enough deal to try to change how someone types.

            3. Jaydee*

              I have switched to single space after a period but have lots of form letters and documents that predate that or were originally authored by other people. I do the same find/replace as you.

          2. Artemesia*

            Exactly. I have been touch typing for nearly 60 years and learned on a manual typewriter (I am the person who wears the letters off my laptaps in about 6 months — I don’t need to have them labeled but it still makes me the laughingstock of the family) — it is all muscle memory now and those double spaces or whatever are pretty automatic.

        5. Lynn Whitehat*

          I’ve gone to the dark side and started doing that. I switch among Windows, Mac, and Linux a lot, and also use some oddball programs where paste is something other than Ctrl-V. I finally gave up on committing all the different shortcuts to muscle memory.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Well, I think the point was that it can be kind of annoying to watch someone do something you know is a more laborious or time consuming way of doing things. The secret is not to care!

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            But it’s not more laborious or time-consuming for the person using that method—retraining to do it more “efficiently” (i.e., applying another person’s preferences) oftentimes is more laborious and time-consuming.

            This is an imperfect analogy, but it sounds a lot, to me, like a right-handed person asking a left-handed person to write right-handed because “it’s faster” or “less likely to smudge.”

            You’re right that the key is to stop expending energy caring about how someone else does it, but I also think it’s worth taking a step back to remember that our preferred way of doing things is not inherently better/faster for someone else.

            1. Mookie*

              Yep. It comes down to personal superstitions borne from habit, rather than prejudices, I think. I live in fear of losing data, and so am mildly scandalized whenever people in my eyeline don’t regularly “select all + copy” whatever they’re working on. And that’s my problem, not theirs, and would turn into a cumbersome and productivity-killing burden for anyone forced to do it.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Great analogy about smudging with the left hand.
              I have trained a lot of people. It’s amazing to watch how something that works for me or works for most people can totally confound a person. It can throw them all off track so that unrelated things start going out of whack also as the person become rattled or distracted. I landed on showing people what works okay for most people and I told them to make it their own, meaning tweak it to suit them. As long as people’s productivity was up, then there was no problem. What used to fascinate me, was the response of the folks who could not use x way (general method) and their y way was too time consuming. I’d say, “That looks like it’s slowing you down and frustrating you. See if you can come up with some tweaks to make it easier for yourself.” Then I’d walk away. A while later, I would see that they had come up with modifications that I can only describe as brilliant. It’s nothing I ever would have thought of and it worked perfectly fine. It ended up that people I was supposed to be training actually taught me something. Some of their tips got incorporated into the group methods.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                It’s a good example of being new to work vs experience–if you have been around awhile you probably have observed a lot of things working for some people that wouldn’t work for you, and you’re okay with that. (Same with parenting–methods and solutions are far more case specific than newbies tend to think. Then you have a second child and it turns out half what you learned with the first one doesn’t apply to this one.)

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I have to take out the experience thing, because apparently some people can amass decades of life experience and still be mad about the way other people make sandwiches. Still, it’s something I’d allow more leeway for eventually falling away in a young adult.

          2. MillersSpring*

            Correct. I was making an analogy. Lots of things can be seen as inefficient, but you stop yourself from rigging someone else’s tools or environment.

          3. AMD*

            “The secret is to not care!”

            Our computer software has different search functions linked to the F6 and F7 keys, and it is maaaaaaaddening to watch people go up to the “Search” menu, click, drag down to the search function they want… I finally had to just resign myself to training new people to use the keyboard shortcut, and let the people who were used to doing it the other way continue to do it that way. It was a character building exercise for me.

        2. Artemesia*

          I touch type and am astonished at the number of people who two finger it or use other inefficient approaches. Haven’t given that lecture to anyone yet.

      2. acmx*

        One of my coworkers did not like that I used the snip tool to do a screenshot and instructed me how to do it another way. When I figured out that he was just showing me an alternative way, I shook my head. Then he got offended I was in disbelief bc he was trying to help lol

        (He’s a nice coworker just has a bit of a “dad” type behavior and not just with me).

        1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

          I have three monitors at work! Snip is a life saver to screen shot one screen instead of all three and having to crop it all.

          1. Kitten*

            You can use Alt+[ScreenPrint Key] to get just the active screen by the way – that used to drive me crazy too.

            (not a ‘do it my way’ comment, the Snip Tool sometimes doesn’t capture hover-menu’s which is infuriating when you’re building User Guides)

            1. nhb*

              I’ve used the Alt + Print Scrn as well for a screenshot of just one screen, but then I can’t have any menus open, or else they autoclose, and I don’t get the mouse icon on the screen. So when I’m writing up procedures, or a “how-to” guide, I have to Ctrl + Print Scrn, and then crop. Except now I’m going to use Snipping Tool because I never even considered that before!

              1. Kitten*

                Hi @nhb,

                I used to combine Snipping Tool and Paint to put my arrows in – Snipping Tool is not always great at holding your hover menus because you have to open the Snipping Tool window to access the ‘new’ button.

                I generally found that dumping the shot into Paint and putting a box and a pointer on the relevant piece helped me out though.

                (I am not doing well on the ‘leave other people’s workflows alone’ issue today, oops).

                1. Newt*

                  At a previous job, we were given an alternative to the snipping tool that was automatically bound to your printscrn button, and it was brilliant.

                  It would lock whatever was on your screen at the time you pressed it – hover menus, cursor and all – and present you with a separate controllable cursor that you could use to make shaped, square or round snips of the screen with using various keys. So useful.

                  So impossible for me to find anywhere to download since I left there!

            2. Jubilance*

              OMG you just saved my life! I’ve been having to screenshot & then crop – I never knew there was a shortcut for the active screen! Thank you!

            3. Dweali*

              I can’t figure out the snip tool (and only know that it is available to me because my lunch cover has used it repeatedly on my profile) but use Ctrl+Alt+print screen all the time…the worst for me is when 365 decides it doesn’t want to paste the screen shot so I have to save it in Word to email.

              1. Tirannie*

                Always check with your IT department to see if they have alternative licenses available!

                Everywhere I’ve ever worked would only give us snipping tool as the default windows tool, so I always submit a request to ask for a SnagIt license. 100% of the time, I get the license for the more robust tool, they just don’t advertise that it’s available.

                Worth asking just to see if you get it!

            4. Lady Russell's Turban*

              Thank you for this! I recently got two monitors and I am building a user guide for our team. Having to crop two screens was really annoying!

            5. kitryan*

              I didn’t know about this either and with two monitors I regularly have to zoom out and then crop so that I can get the bit I want- only capturing one screen from the start will be a big help! Thanks!

            6. MillersSpring*

              Kitten, if you’re building User Guides, would your organization let you download a better screenshot software? Many years ago, I enjoyed using SnagIt for software documentation, but I’m sure these days you can find many other options, some free and some $$.

              1. kitten*

                Hi @MillersSpring,

                Fortunately, I moved away from there – I just happened to be writing a quick and dirty user guide for a client with a question today and decided to mention the shortcut :)

                We did trial Captivate at my old job though. That was pretty cool for our remote workers and for presentations, but I wasn’t so impressed with the User Guide functionality. We did have a beautiful tool that did everything, but…. £££ so no go from C-Suite.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        I do both, depending on what my hands are doing at the time – it’s not necessarily more efficient to use shortcut keys or right-click – depends. If my fingers are already on the mouse, it would take far to long to use shortcut keys – if I’m typing, it would take far to long to move hand to mouse.

      4. Pomona Sprout*

        But… but… but… I’m exactly the opposite–always right click to copy, cut, paste, etc. That’s how I learned to do it, it works for me, and nobody has the right to tell me not to! I can’t even remember what all the keyboard shortcuts are, because I never use them. If someone tried to make me change over, it would annoy the hell out of me and slow me down to a snail’s pace until I managed to retrain myself. If someone else would rather do keyboard shortcuts, that’s their choice, but it doesn’t me I have to do it that way. To each his/her/their own, different strokes for different folks, etc.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve always used macs, which don’t have left and right buttons, and so found all the right click explanations bewildering.

          1. Jessica*

            I use a Mac for work, and I set the trackpad so that a two-finger tap on the right side of the trackpad acts as a double-click. I use PCs at home, so it was one thing that made it easier for me to be able to switch between OSes without having to think too hard.

        2. LavaLamp*

          The program I use for work doesn’t let you right click. At all. You have to use Ctrl-V or you’re just not going to paste anything. I never did figure out why, its’ just the way the program was made.
          Plus we automatically type everything in capital letters in that program, to prevent confusion.

          I learned to type in the fourth or fifth grade. My computer teacher actually made a giant keyboard with velcro buttons and made us memorize it, and we had to do daily drills in a typing computer game.

      5. CoveredInBees*

        I have a friend who uses the backspace key to go back and fix a typo before retyping everything she’d deleted. It is excruciating to watch. I mentioned that she could use the back arrow key or a mouse click to get there without the retyping but she said this is how she types. I let it go and tried to never think about it again.

        1. bkanon*

          Every time I see TV people hitting backspace a thousand times to delete something, I just want to writhe in anguish. Highlight, delete! But no.

        2. Oranges*

          My mom does that too! Drives me bananas to watch her type. This is why I will look anywhere BUT at her screen when she’s typing.

        3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          I do this. It’s faster to retype a few words than to take my hands off the keyboard in order to use the mouse
          or the arrows to go back to the misspelled word.

        4. GirlwithaPearl*

          Eh, sometimes I do this because it helps further clarify my thinking/ writing and allows me to improve the sentence.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          With my old computer, it was easier to backspace/retype. Reinserting the cursor in the misspelled word could take 15 minutes for the computer to figure out what to do.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      But access to settings and access to files = not the same thing. You can change keyboard settings without accessing files. And if they’re confidential they shouldn’t be accessible to someone else. That ones on her.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Well, the confidential-files part was pure speculation, and there’s nothing in the letter about that. :) My main point was that sitting down at someone else’s computer and fiddling with it just isn’t a good look unless there’s an explicit reason for it. The invasiveness — regardless how deep it could actually go — just struck me as a possible reason for the firing.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I read ‘when I was using her computer’ as being legit. Not sure it’s possible to tell from what’s in the letter.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think this really depends on where you work. There are a lot of places where it would look absolutely dodgy to be tooling around on someone else’s computer without permission or a work-related reason.

    5. Drew*

      You just gave me flashbacks to the time a roommate’s girlfriend needed a floppy disk to use our campus computer lab (this was a while ago) and just borrowed one that was sitting next to my computer. Because she was on a Mac and I wasn’t, she ended up formatting the disc containing my end-of-semester project, two days before it was due. (Of course I didn’t have a backup.)

      That was the time I discovered I knew profanity I hadn’t realized I had learned.

      The worst part was that she thought she was doing me a favor by formatting the disk for me and had no idea why I was so upset. She wanted us to sit down and talk about it when I really needed her to GTFO so I could recreate my project. Fortunately, my roomie got her out of there and promised to keep her away for the weekend.

      My instructor said she thought my project seemed rushed, but I still got a B.

      Don’t mess with people’s workflow, even (especially!) if you think you’re doing them a favor.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Reminds me of an anecdote I read, many years ago, from a man whose son had gone to computer camp and learned that you had to format a disk before you could use it. So he dutifully formatted the new copy of Windows his father had bought before he tried to install it…

    6. Turquoise Cow*

      Yes. I am not a terribly neat person. (Not sloppy, usually, but not super neat.) However, I know where my stuff is, and if someone else comes in and “cleans” for me, I can’t find things, and it makes me super annoyed and frustrated. Changing how my keyboard works would be just as annoying.

      The coworker in this situation might have a similar type of situation where she’s used to typing with the caps button. In any case, messing with another person’s things – computer included – is a serious invasion of personal space.

  10. InkyPinky*

    Oh my goodness, I think #1 is very much a fireable offense. I would lose my sh*t if someone did that to me, and especially an intern. It’s arrogant in the extreme. It’s like telling someone how they should drink their coffee and taking steps to force them into it. It’s pretty gross behaviour in my books and I would never trust someone like that anywhere near me again. If I was that employee, I’d be putting my foot down to ensure this person isn’t anywhere in my vicinity again.

    The other big, big flag here is that the OP thought it was a-okay to go onto another person’s computer and touch anything. Settings is obviously a big one, but if I were the boss, I’d be wondering what else the employee would be looking at next time someone accidentally leaves their computer unlocked around him/her. It just shows a complete lack of professional boundaries. You don’t go poking around in someone’s computer and that’s a trust/confidentiality issue. Especially if this internship is somewhere that privacy is an issue.

    And, I’m sorry OP#1, but you need to re-think your definition of efficiency and what’s important to employers in a workplace. Nit-picking over how someone types isn’t going to get you points, and it’s not really going to make a dent in that employee’s productivity. Spending your time looking for ways to shave off milliseconds from your workflow in the name of productivity means you’re likely missing bigger picture items you should actually be focusing on.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        We don’t have enough information about the overall circumstances to know whether firing – or the comment you replied to – are extreme reactions. It could be the first thing the letter writer had done that annoyed anyone in the slightest (and it’s easy to fix), or it could be the culmination of a series of incidents that any rational person would consider harassment, and absolutely anything in between. Some people get *very* upset when you tinker with their computer, and can lose hours or days of work getting over it.

        Disabling CAPS LOCK is a simple thing to reverse, but there are a lot of settings changes in any operating system that can take a *lot* of work to undo once they’re messed up. And people who aren’t doing computer stuff full time usually can’t tell the difference between the two.

        My first guess (with nothing to back it up) is that perhaps the company has had issues with this sort of thing in the past, and it ended up being a Big Deal. It’s easier than most people realize.

        1. Paul*

          I’m protective of my electronic setups; I don’t know that I’d jump right to “FIRE AND KEELHAUL” but man, I’d be upset.

        2. Jenny*

          Well think about coworker. I bet this setting change significantly.diaruptrd her workflow. Typing is so much muscle memory that either she had documents with no caps or she had to spend time figuring out there was a problem and wondering what it was (which would take a pretty significant chunk of Time because anyone would assume “bad key” before “someone changed my keyboard settings because they don’t like how I type”. I wonder if she tried finding and plugging in a new keyboard.

          1. aebhel*

            That was my thought as well. Absent any other information, it would take me a while to get to ‘someone disabled the capslock key on my computer’, because that’s such an invasive and bizarre thing for a coworker to do.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I’m not sure it would even occur to me before I got to “it’s obviously either what happened to the letter L hardware that time and I need a new keyboard, or some fiendish virus that gradually disables keys” and called in IT support.

              1. AJHall*

                I’d certainly call IT support if my capslock stopped working, and I bet it would be a frustrating and mutually baffling conversation which would probably waste about an hour, if the reason they weren’t working was that a person unknown has disabled them. I do wonder how much time the coworker was forced to waste trying to find a solution before OP bothered to mention they’d sabotaged her machine to force her to adopt a method of working she’d already told them she wasn’t interested in adopting. The last straw would have been OP telling her they did it to improve their efficiency!

                1. Newt*

                  That’s an important point. This whole “efficiency exercise” probably wasted a significant amount of not just the coworker’s time, but also their IT helpdesk staff’s time, too. Because I know the process over here would be:

                  1. Keyboard isn’t Doing The Thing. Reset PC because that is always step 1.
                  2. Still not working. Switch off PC and remove key to check for anything interfering with it like someone’s nail clippings or whatever.
                  3. Still not working. Ask a coworker if I can try swapping their keyboard for mine for a moment.
                  4. Still not working. Raise service desk ticket through support website. Attempt to work – more slowly – without the caps key while I wait for support.
                  5. IT helpdesk member comes to my desk and repeats steps 1-3 for me.
                  6. IT helpdesk member checks computer settings and discovers change that has been made.

                  You can easily lose a chunk of the day to that sort of process. Even if LW1 owned up to being the culprit before the support ticket was raised, it’s already gone on long enough to disrupt my work and the work of whoever I borrowed the replacement keyboard from.

                  And yeah, at permanent-new-staff level at my place this would be PIP/warning level behaviour. In an intern I can see them jumping straight to sacking. Because the underlying message LW1 sent here is that they do not respect coworker’s workspaces and techniques, they do not listen to their more senior staff who are training them, and they are willing to go behind people’s back to try and force solutions that have already been rejected, up to and including interfering with another person’s computer.

        3. DArcy*

          On a Windows computer, disabling CAPS LOCK is actually *not* that easy to do or to reverse; it requires either installing a third-party program like SharpKeys or making registry edits. Those are relatively trivial things to do if you’re a Windows geek, but someone who isn’t one would literally *never think of it* since it’s not in anywhere in the actual system settings.

        4. Observer*

          Disabling caps lock is easy to reverse IF YOU KNOW IT’S BEEN DONE. But, the OP didn’t even bother to tell the co-worker that they had done that. That makes the whole thing so much worse.

          1. cataloger*

            Yeah, I would just assume that key/keyboard was broken, maybe swap in a new keyboard, waste a bunch of time trying to figure out why that one wasn’t working either. Not a good day.

        5. Bea*

          I dont really think it’s that big of a deal. It was dumb and presumptious but unless there were other things going on with the letter writter this seems a little silly to me. Sorry guys. Argue away!

          1. sunny-dee*

            It’s not (just) that disabling the key is a big deal. It’s the violation of personal space and a complete lack of respect for someone’s habits in a way that, literally, could never affect the OP ever, under any circumstances.

        6. Sarah*

          Disabling caps lock might be a simple thing for an IT person to reverse, but I consider myself fairly computer literate and would have no idea how to do it myself. I’m sure I could Google a solution, but at that point I’ve expended waaaaaaay more time than could ever be wasted by how I use/don’t use caps lock in the first place! And depending on how comfortable with computers and playing around with settings the coworker is, this absolutely could require an actual IT person to take time away from whatever their regular duties are to come and fix. At this point, three actual employees of the company have had their productivity messed with (the coworker, the manager, and the IT person), and I can absolutely see how it feels like a better tradeoff to fire the intern.

      2. InkyPinky*

        True, it is. Someone doing something like that to me though feels very intrusive. I have a very visceral response to this type of thing – it’s a feeling of being monitored – though I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t be bothered – which makes me think some of what happened may have to do with the coworker and her response. And I would say that the intern’s response to a co-worker’s typing habits is extreme too. She’s actively preventing someone from doing something, which is something you don’t do to grown-ups.

        1. InkyPinky*

          (In case it’s not clear bc of the reply threads, I’m agreeing with Allison that my reaction is extreme. But I know that’s my personality and it works for me. Most days .)

      3. Anon55*

        Truth! When I was an intern I didn’t have a third of a clue about workplace norms and once screwed up copying news clippings. Seriously, I didn’t know how to copy a piece of the newspaper. The OP will likely look back on this and cringe, but sometimes that’s how we learn when we’re young!

      4. Traffic_Spiral*

        I think the problem here was that he didn’t learn. Considering that he still thought he was in the right after talking to HR and being fired, I’m guessing that the reason for firing wasn’t so much the fact that he did it, but the fact that the resulting conversation went like this:

        Boss: “Yeah, wow, so don’t do that.”
        Him: “But it’s not as efficient to use caps!”
        Boss: “So don’t use caps. But do not go secretly messing with other people’s computers because you don’t like how they type.”
        Him: “But using caps is wrong!”
        Boss: “I don’t care if she’s typing with her tongue! It’s her business – not yours.”
        Him: “But if she would just…”
        Boss: “Do. Not. Mess. With. Other. People’s. Computers.”
        Him: “But she was doing it wrong!”
        Boss *rubbing temples in the hopes that it will stave off a migraine*: “Yeah, ok, I don’t need this. Thank you for your time; don’t come back tomorrow.”

        1. KHB*

          This sounds very plausible to me. I can imagine the boss/HR trying to have the “do not ever do anything like this again, and there will not be another warning” conversation, getting a bunch of “but whyyyy?” in response, and ultimately saying “You know what, forget it.”

          In which case, the lesson about workplace norms the OP needs to learn is twofold. One, do not mess with people’s workflows, even if you’re trying to help. Two, when the boss or HR (or anyone senior to you, really) is telling you you’ve done something wrong, you need to back way off and listen to them. Even if you think they’re just unfairly “siding” with someone else against you, they have power over your employment, and they may very well use it.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Agreed. The lesson is that “S/he who pays the cheque makes the rules,” so if the boss says “don’t do this” – don’t do it. Especially as an intern – your job is to shut up and learn. Or ask questions, and learn, but definitely not to argue when told not to do something.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          I could totally see this. After all, school is about having the *right* answer, not the one that works for you.

        3. kittymommy*

          Ditto, I get the feeling from the letter that the intern kept pushing back iv the correction.

        4. SarahKay*

          Nothing constructive to add, but your imaginary conversation is hilarious. Especially the “I don’t care if she’s typing with her tongue!” which nearly had my keyboard covered in coffee!

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Thanks. I was going to go with “I don’t care if she types with her ass!” but it occurred to me that ass-typing might actually not be workplace appropriate.

      5. sap*

        I’m not sure what industry OP1 works in, but there are a lot of industries where deadlines are very tight; if someone did something to my computer that slowed my typing by, like, 30+% (which has been the slowdown I have experienced when my keyboard has broken in the past) and I had something that really, really, needed to get done on an 8-hour turnaround, I can imagine that *I* might be fired depending on the deadline that I missed as a result. I would absolutely want someone who did something like this fired, because I am not fine risking that they will do something similar and get me fired in the future.

    1. Librarian of the North*

      I think the firing is extreme (although the attitude surrounding this action leads me to believe there may have been other issues) but I came here to say the same thing about messing with settings. It’s concerning to have an intern messing around in the computer settings of a superior.

      1. Jen RO*

        I think we all agree it was a mistake, but some of us just don’t feel it was a *fireable* mistake.

        1. Artemesia*

          A mistake is assembled the copies wrong; accidentally erased a file when trying to save it; filed something in the wrong place. Intentionally disabling a function on a computer seems more like misbehavior than mistake hence the firing.

          1. NaoNao*

            I think in this case it’s being used as “a mistake in judgement” or “mistaken belief systems” like “There’s a right way to do everything and regardless of your personal feelings or systems, you must adhere to that Right Way or I’ll make you adhere to it.”
            It wasn’t a slip-up, no. But the mistake occurred before the action: when the intern *mistakenly* went down that line of thought.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          Well, it’s an intern – that’s not really the same as an employee, so they’re easier to fire.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Messing with someone’s IT settings would get you fired where I work. And it’s hard to fire people where I work.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        But if the OP knew this and had all these points of reference, they wouldn’t have written this letter – it’s worth remembering they are just learning this stuff and don’t know WHY it’s concerning etc.

        1. Jessica*

          I find that hard to believe. Today’s interns grew up with computers assigned to them that were not theirs to own, with rules about when and how it was appropriate to use them. Colleges have rules about what you can and can’t do on their network and with lab machines. I can’t see how someone gets all the way to a college internship in today’s world without at least being *aware* that such rules exist.

        2. aebhel*

          I just… I can’t imagine doing something like this to a classmate in college, or to a family member, or to a friend or significant other, either, and I’m a socially awkward control freak who took a long time to get a grip of professional norms. ‘Don’t deliberately sabotage other people’s stuff’ is not really something you should need professional experience to grasp, IMO.

    2. JamieS*

      Agreed it sounds like OP has trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Since the coworker is an efficient typist it doesn’t sound like it was even an efficiency issue but more of a pet peeve.

      For me whether it’s reasonable to fire OP over it depends on a variety of factors such as the OP’s past performance, how OP gained access to the computer (have permission?), and how OP reacted to being confronted about the mistake. By itself I wouldn’t consider this a fireable offense in most industries if the guilty party was otherwise a good employee and took responsibility.

      Something I’m not clear on though is whether OP was fired and then went to HR or was fired after going to HR. If OP was reprimanded by the manager, went to HR to complain, and then still didn’t admit to being in the wrong after HR sided with the coworker and manager I’m not surprised OP was let go.

    3. always in email jail*

      If I had been assigned an intern to train and they went in and changed my computer settings to “prove” they were right, I would immediately go to my manager and say that I cannot work with them going forward. I would use all of my political capital to get them out of my life. Like InkyPinky, I had a very visceral response to this. I would treat an employee differently, but an intern is a much different dynamic. We’re doing interns favours by giving them the practical experience required for their degree.
      I know we don’t know the whole story, but I find it difficult to believe that someone who would step this far out of the bounds of norms did not have any other red flags before this.

    4. 5 Leaf Clover*

      I agree with InkyPinky that it’s a fireable offense. People keep saying, “don’t mess with someone’s workflow,” as if disrupting the job were the most important thing going on here. To me that’s minor compared to overriding someone’s *personal autonomy*. The OP’s colleague clearly stated they didn’t want to make the change, and the OP took steps to *coerce* them into doing it. That shows a shocking lack of understanding of autonomy and consent.

      1. Sylvia*

        I think those are pretty strong terms for this situation. To me, the problem is that she took it upon herself to teach her coworker, a grown woman, how to type.

        1. teclatrans*

          Hm, but, OP didn’t teach her, OP forced her to do it differently, presumably “for her own good.” I am comfortable with calling it coercion.

          1. Sylvia*

            OP was trying to teach her. I’m still not comfortable using those terms for messing with someone’s keyboard (not that messing with someone’s keyboard is okay, obv).

            1. Yorick*

              I agree. Maybe people don’t mean it this way, but it sounds like they’re comparing this situation to rape. That’s a huge stretch, imo.

              1. Gunter*

                Oh, please. There are far more forms of coercion than just coerced rape, and there are far more violations of personal autonomy than just rape. That you jumped there is a problem with your thinking, and is quite disturbing, since by your own comment therefore no one can ever talk about other forms of coercion/violation without “comparing it to rape” and thus being invalidated.

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Something really important to remember about working with people is that people aren’t robots – they are humans with their own individual quirks and preferences. You say you were trying to make things more efficient but your issue was with a person, not just a thing or a process.

    And while something might seem more efficient to you, people have their own ways of doing things for whatever reason (including habit – computer use is often automatic). Even if you didn’t understand why she typed that way, it was still the way she typed, and it was her choice to do that.

    It’s not okay to change someone’s equipment just to force them to see they should use it differently. Even if you think your way is best, you need to respect other people’s space, equipment and choices. It’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t do that – as what else might you do because you think you know better.

    1. Geoffrey B*

      This reminds me of the “brown M&Ms” thing, albeit accidental rather than a deliberately-created test. (context: http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.asp)

      If a co-worker did something like this to me, it’d probably take a couple of minutes to figure out how to re-enable caps lock (when I eventually noticed). But as you say, it would seriously undermine my ability to trust them on the important things.

      1. Oranges*

        That’s so cool. I’d probably be all grumbly about the brown M&Ms but do it. While grumbling.

    2. Leavepeoplealone*

      #1 needs to watch the tea and consent video. It goes for tea and typing and sex.

      It’s not just that this person was a know it all. It’s not just that they went into somebody else’s computer. They demonstrated that they don’t take no for an answer. I really wonder what else they did on the job the demonstrated an inability to take no for an answer

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That is such an excellent video, and it’s totally on point. I would have never have thought of it outside of the context it was made for, but it’s a good lesson on consent/boundaries in all areas of life.

  12. MommyMD*

    It’s not your job to monitor her typing or modify her computer. Ask yourself why such a small thing someone ELSE was doing that had zero bearing on you, created such a fuss in your head that you sabotaged her work computer. Learn from it.

    1. Blurgle*

      Sometimes younger people, for all their words of rebellion, are really bothered by non-conformity they can’t easily understand. They assume “different” is the same as “wrong” and become overly critical about things that on reflection don’t matter.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          +1. Variances in the ‘hall monitor’ tendency kick in early. Some kids are always reporting to the teacher about others’ inconsequential quirks and some aren’t fussed at all. When I was substitute teaching, it seemed like there was always only one kid per class who was really on hall monitor overdrive and filled with anxiety that the other kids might step out of routine and then . . . IDK, turn into a pumpkin?

          1. Allison*

            Yes, it’s definitely a thing but not a thing everyone does. I had classmates constantly police me, saying things like “teacher said to do it this way!” or “teacher said not to do that” or “Teeeeaaaacherrrr, Allison’s doing something wrong!”

            I distinctly remember a classmate in, I dunno, first grade maybe who would gasp three times, getting louder and more intense each time, and then go “you’re not supposed to do that!” Now, I can’t remember how often this happened, in my mind it was a common occurrence, but maybe it only happened once.

            Many kids grow out of it, others become adult know-it-alls. Like the ones who comment when you get up to leave at 4:58 when the handbook says the workday ends at 5, or the ones who give you a hard time for coming in 3 minutes late, or tell you to slow down when walking too quickly to a meeting. It’s not just the workplace either! I’ve had strangers “correct” how I do things in public, I’ve had peers in dance class make comments like “the teacher said to do it this way, but you did it this way” when I’m trying to override my default way of leading a move.

            I can’t tell if it’s a personality trait or something parents instill in their kids, but it’s not an age thing.

            1. Sylvia*

              One of my parents is a little hall-monitor-y. She’s a perfectionist who wants the best for everyone! She’s just trying to help. There’s some of this in me, too. It’s not an age thing.

            2. RVA Cat*

              This. In its most extreme form, you had the guy measuring his neighbor’s grass with a ruler – who turned out to be a serial killer (“BTK” I think?).

            3. teclatrans*

              My kid had to deal with this recently, with a seat partner who anxiously jumped all over her for not doing what (he thought) the teacher had instructed them to do. I can recognize that it was anxiety, she just thinks he’s a jerk.

              1. Gunter*

                Even if he has anxiety he’s still a jerk for treating someone that way. Mental illness isn’t an excuse. Consider maybe actually defending your kid instead of siding with her tormentor.

        2. sam*

          I mean, I’m 43 and I can sometimes get frustrated when I witness someone doing something technologically inefficient, but other than offering a “can I show you a more efficient way to do that?” ONCE, and then dropping it if they say no, I know that other people are not me.

          (I’m generally the go-to person for anything tech-related in my office, short of actual IT – technical/technological proficiency is just something I’m naturally inclined to, and it took me a while to realize that *I’m* the odd-man-out in almost any office. It also means that I serve as the IT department for my entire family).

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Oh, this is me, too. A lot of people love the suggestions that I offer, but it’s just that – a suggestion, and some people like their way better. Someone I work with does something that drives me crazy every time I go to help him with a technical thing, but it’s his way, he likes it, it doesn’t greatly impede progress, and he has many, many other redeeming qualities. :)

      1. Oryx*


        This is something that people of all ages are guilty of so let’s not assign it to one age demographic please.

        1. Gaia*

          I’m the first to jump at what is a perceived “kids these days” comments but in this case I think they are using “younger people” to refer to inexperienced people. Younger people of all generations are more inclined to behave this way (although certainly not all will) because they don’t yet realize it is inappropriate. And some younger people will become older people and never learn.

      2. Jill of All Trades*

        That’s funny, because as a “younger person” I see this behavior in “older people” all the time. This issue is not because of differences in age.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “This issue is not because of differences in age.”

          Right — I think it’s more about inherent tolerance (or lack thereof) for ambiguity.

  13. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: People have their own habots that allows them to successfully work, and sometimes those habits Don’t make sense. Messy areas, caps lock, and other odd habits count. By messing with their habits, you ruin thwir workflow. You also give off the impression that you are invasive, like a mom reading their child’s diary. Those can be two big reasons why your coworker felt you should have been fired.

    So make sure you learn for this. If someone has an odd hanit, make a suggestion and leave it be if they decline. Any firther pushing or manipulations will cause stuff to backfire.

    1. Jan*

      I get the weird rage though. My weird thing is if I’m ever helping someone and they do the copy/past thing from the top menu rather than just do CTL-C and CTL-V. YOU’RE WASTING TIME! QUIT DOING THAT!

      So I get the inclination to disable it but also recognize that it would be bad.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        When setting up my work computer for the first time, the IT person seemed ready to hug me because I used CTL-C/V and tabbed between boxes in a form. I’m pretty sure I never touched the mouse more than twice during setup because it was simply easier for me to use the keyboard. They were always quick to help me out with things because they knew that if I said something was broken, it wasn’t likely a user error.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I just don’t watch when people are doing things like that on the computer that drive me crazy. Like if I have to sit with someone while they browse through a form or whatever, and they sloooowly creep the mouse up and hover over one of the selections for what seems like three full minutes, and then they finally click to produce the dropdown menu, and then they slooowly browse the choices . . .

        I just look away. I look out the window, or think about my grocery list, or *anything* just to avoid the torture of watching them. Same when my kids used to have to take timed multiplication exercises at home. I couldn’t stand to turn the timer on and watch them sit there looking at the ceiling, pulling on the pencil eraser, etc. I would turn the timer on and leave the room and come back later to check if they’d solved the recommended number of problems.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Trying to analyze why it bothers me: I don’t think it’s because I care whether other people are efficient or not. I think I get frustrated when I’ve already looked several steps ahead of where they are, and I have to wait for them to catch up. Like, I already see that one should click here, pull down this menu, choose this option . . . and they’re still painstakingly figuring it out. It’s like being stuck behind someone driving 10 mph in a 50 mph zone.

          1. Jan*

            Yes. That’s it for me too.

            I’m a rather impatient person and seeing someone slog through something that could easily take me seconds to do is just infuriating for me. I also have to look away.

            I also get impatient with slow walkers and slow drivers so I think this is a slowness/impatience thing for me.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            This type of stuff bothers me if I am overtired or if I am super pressed for time or if I am not sure of what I am doing with my own work. Yep, I stare out the window or I think of all the times people had to wait for me to read through something. If I am keeping track of seconds or even a few minutes I have to ask myself “What is going on with ME?”
            But it can be painful to watch others struggle. I had one job where cohort and I joked the way to get the stronger people to help us move something was to make sure that we were in their line of sight when we tried to move Heavy Thing. The stronger people came over with predictable regularity.

      3. LiveAndLetDie*

        I understand the weird rage, but I also understand that it’s not MY workflow that’s happening when I watch someone do that stuff–it’s theirs. I’ve got a relatively new peer at work who copy-pastes by right-clicking and selecting ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ from the menu, whereas I’m a keyboard-shortcuts kind of person. But he’s pretty quick about it, and if it makes a difference in speed of work output, it’s negligible. It’s just a difference of how we do things.

  14. Former Computer Professional*

    Oh, goodness, #3 isn’t just a problem for tracking. Some porn (and other) sites still can transmit viruses.

    A bit ago I picked up a contract to de-virus someone’s laptop. It turned out that I couldn’t help them. It was this person’s work laptop. Like #3, they’d been traveling for their job and “just looked at a few sites.” His laptop became infected with viruses. The big problem was that his employer’s IT department had locked down all administrative functions. Because of the way modern viruses get deep into the system, there was no way to fully remove all the viruses without re-installing it, which would have been noticed by the IT department immediately.

    The customer was in tears, sure they were going to be fired. I didn’t find out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. Always be very, very careful about what you do with a work-owned computer.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*


      Porn sites are notorious for being riddled with all kinds of malware.

      If you wreck your own device? Shit happens.

      Your company device? Could be a huge problem, especially if you have access to confidential data.

    2. so anon*

      Viruses were my first thought as well. My company was hit by the last big wave of ransomware (NotPetya) and trust me, you do not want to see that happening (or, especially, be responsible for it happening) to yours.

    3. nnn*

      Esprit d’escalier, but my first thought in this situation is to wonder if they’d get in less trouble for “accidentally” damaging the laptop to the point where the hard drive is unreadable than for getting a porn virus. A spilled cup of coffee? A mischievous child with a new magnetic toy?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Where I work, you would absolutely get in less trouble for accidental damage to a computer (says the girl who accidentally tipped an entire beverage into her laptop on a flight once). That’s an accident; downloading malware-laden porn is not an accident, unnecessary for business, and, at minimum, putting inappropriate materials onto a work computer. Plus, a lot of malware doesn’t just infect the computer it’s on, it’s designed to spread to the network and other machines. We can replace one machine; locking down the entire network to quarantine something is going to spell trouble for somebody.

        I will also say, as someone who facilitates reviews other people’s computer files for relevance to litigation matters, you also may not know what your employer’s backup policy is and whether or not what you delete of your computer is actually gone. A number of employers use journaling software to maintain a full copy of all emails sent/received for compliance/record retention purposes. I had a doc review lead tell me that, just once, they’d like to run a document review that did not involve having an “adult content” tag in the review form.

        One place I worked ended up having to turn a work machine over to the FBI once because the porn in question involved underage parties. That was ugly.

    4. Artemesia*

      I am betting that he accidentally backed his car over it and broke the hard disk (after first hammering it). An odd accident where it slipped out of the back seat of the car when the car came open when he was backing up.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Took it down a dirt road and lit it on fire . . . *

        Oh, wait, it’s supposed to be an ‘accident’. Never mind.

        *Remember the commenter who took a stack of problematic work papers down a dirt road and lit them on fire?

    5. Paul*


      We have a policy that there’s *no* porn on work provided equipment, even off the clock and it’s partly due to that. Porn and online gambling sites = sketchy as hell dens of malware.

      1. Gadfly*

        First step for fraud–waive bait….. Make it something they will cut corners to get. Be it porn or a prize. Greed gets people.

        1. Starwatcher*

          Remember mp3 sharing sites? I once had a colleague complain bitterly about malware on their home computer, and recommended some solutions, only to find out that they *had* a firewall – but they’d turned it off because it kept blocking their access to filesharing (and porn)!

    6. Jenny*

      My job occasionally has the potential to require some nasty material. If you have to actually access illicit or dangerous sites they actually have special computers to use just for those purposes with extra safety (they are not for personal use, you have to.document where you went and why).

  15. Magenta Sky*

    OP1: How efficient – nor not – a particular employee is, is the business of that employees supervisor, and any training staff the company has. It is not the job of a coworker (intern or otherwise) to worry about it. If her inefficiency is negatively affecting *your* work, talk to your, or her (if different) supervisor. And don’t say “Jane needs to stop using the CAPS LOCK key.” Say “Jane’s slowness is keeping me from doing my job as well as I could.” But addressing any inefficiency in work flow is someone else’s job. And if you’re doing someone else’s job, you’re not doing *your* job.

    OP 3: It pro here. I can think of two circumstances in which porn on a company computer is acceptable. The first is when it’s the boss’s computer, and he does not answer to anybody else. His company, his computer, his right to do stupid (and potentially illegal, considering harassment laws) things on it. The other – and I’ve done this – is when IT is documenting an employee doing something like what you propose, and has to actually visit a site to confirm what it is because the domain name isn’t obvious.

    Other than that, yeah, take your own tablet. They can be had for under $100. There’s no other way you can possibly hope to guarantee that no other employee will ever see what’s on your company laptop.

    1. Transformer*

      What if it’s your own iPhone connected to the company email and apps? Can they look at your browsing history on your personally owned cell phone? Always have been curious about job searching on my cell or if I need to uses completely separate device.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This depends on whether it’s BYOD and on whether your company helps offset your phone bill. But regardless of those factors, in most states, an employer can look at your personal cell phone’s browsing history and the history/data on any app you use for company purposes. There was a post recently about BYOD policies and privacy issues. Let me see if I can find the link.

        1. Gaia*

          Uh…wait what? I don’t use company apps on my phone because I don’t want to but let me get this straight.

          Let’s say I use an Outlook app to access company email. Are you telling me this gives my company the right to view ANYTHING I’ve done on my phone? Because I accessed company email on it!? That seems outrageous.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            So the answer is technically no, with the caveat that there are so many exceptions (on a state by state level and under whatever BYOD policy your employer has) that functionally the answer is “yes-ish.

            In most states, an employer can search the activity from apps you use to access company stuff. So in your example, that would be the Outlook app and its cache.

            But let’s say you access Outlook via Web on your phone (or your company’s server/intranet), instead. Then an employer will often be able to search your browser activity, as well. And they can search the cache for the browser, as well as any data you’ve downloaded from apps/programs that you’ve also used to access company stuff (b/c of concerns re: theft and corporate espionage). Some states, like California, are more protective of your privacy, but many are not. The links I provided do a much better job of explaining the common risks/protections for BYOD.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            There is also the issue of having your device collected if your company is involved in a litigation for an issue for which you’re a an important player. BYOD and employer policies kind of go out the window; if you’re the only source of relevant information, your phone is probably going to be collected, at least for preservation purposes.

            The problem with mobile devices is that it’s nearly impossible to forensically collect/inspect just part of them. This is particularly true of text messages, which are all stored in one little database on the phone. This is why I don’t text with coworkers – if my texts end up having to be collected, there is no way to avoid having my texts with friend and family come with them. When they are extracted/reviewed/ produced to another party, the personal ones could be stripped, but they’d still be collected/held until the destruction order is issued for the matter.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        I suspect it depends entirely on the use policy you agreed to when they let you connect to their network. And if HR and IT are at all competent, it’s prohibited. As many have noted, porn sites are hotbeds of malware, and a lot of malware is specifically designed to steal business secrets. That’s how you get emails sent to the controller, apparently from the boss, telling them to wire large amounts of cash to foreign countries.

    2. Clewgarnet*

      I used to work for an educational software provider, and one of their products was to block porn sites.

      There were two employees whose sole job was to spend all day attempting to view porn.

      Needless to say, their computers were in their own little DMZ!

      1. Bagpuss*

        My job used to involve dealing with court cases where social services were involved in families and children were potentially being taken into care.

        I recall having an interesting conversation with IT after my usage apparently flagged some questionable sites… I’d been researching expert witnesses and independent special workers in relation to assessing and working with sex offenders.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh, I had to have this convo with IT! I had a case involving Playboy and had to figure out if the plaintiff sued the right entity (Playboy is, of course, multiple companies). I didn’t need much time on their sites, but one of their corporate addresses reverted back to the main magazine site.

          I had to call and notify not only our IT division, but D.C. (headquarters) as well. That was not fun.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        It is also not uncommon for IT recruiting because a lot of the cutting edge stuff , especially around page speed and stability, has been led by porn sites. A recruiter or interviewer will want to go in and check out the code and maybe speed test the sites. They also use very specific (and unconnected to anything else) machines for that process.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        I work in software security. My job sometimes takes me to really shady Internet neighborhoods.

    3. kitryan*

      For a possible third circumstance, part of my job is to run google searches on potential clients and employees (and a few other kinds of searches). I don’t think I could safe search or not look at a site with questionable material if it was a potential match to the party I was searching, as part of my mandate is to find anything that might damage the company’s reputation via association and to bring it to my boss’s attention.
      So if the person’s twitter was full of hate speech or porn, I’d have to PDF it and send it to my boss – which has thankfully never happened. I have, however, very occasionally stumbled upon questionable material that turned out to not be related to the party I was looking up but had the same or a very similar name. I look long enough to make the determination and then get out as quickly as possible.

  16. Tau*

    Sorry, OP1, I’m with everyone else – you seriously overstepped.

    In addition to what everyone else has mentioned, I’d suggest you rethink your definition of “most efficient”. Like it or not, this is how your coworker is used to working. It’s the most efficient workflow for her because it’s the one she’s familiar with and used to. Using the shift key instead of caps lock will be unfamiliar, and rejigging her typing patterns to do it reflexively will take time and effort which she may not want to or be able to spare. The conflict of old and new typing patterns might leave her typing patterns confused for a very long time. Never to mention e.g. possible coordination issues that might make it genuinely easier for her to hit one key at a time instead of two at the same time, or other things that’d make Caps the best option for her.

    The thing I am trying to get at here is that people are different, and what works for someone may not work for someone else, and the theoretically most “optimal” approach may not be the most optimal in practice… and all of that means that forcing your idea of what would be the best way to work onto someone else is wrong. Next time, OP1, mention it (briefly and casually), and if they’re not receptive let it go.

  17. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 In answer to your question: if it’s a device provided by your company you are never, ever off the clock.

  18. Daria Grace*

    OP3, Those kinds of sites have a reputation for spreading viruses, malware and other digital nasties. You do not want to be the person who becomes known for having damaged company databases or opening the company up to hackers that way.

  19. Kathlynn*

    Op3, other posters have raised very good and serious concerns. I’d like to make one more, if it is found that you are looking at porn, do you really want them knowing the type of porn you watch, because that information will be saved as well as any search terms you have used.

  20. Fake Eleanor*

    OP #1: Sorry that your attempt to be helpful went that badly, but one thing to keep in mind: Forcing someone to accept your help is not actually helpful, no matter what you intended. I also wonder if some of the severity of the response was because your coworker perceived this as a prank, rather than an attempt to help.
    One takeaway: You say you “didn’t understand” why she’d type that way. If it’s that interesting to you, why not just ask her? And listen to her response, and not leap immediately to “there’s a better way to do that.” There may indeed be a better way to do that. Her way may be a simple quirk, or there may be some significant reason, or maybe she’s never thought about it before.
    Regardless, you didn’t really understand why, and you didn’t have explicit permission to try and improve someone’s life. In that circumstance, it’s not your place to try and trick them into being a more efficient person.
    Sorry it turned out that, in this case, it was a fireable offense.

    1. Leavepeoplealone*

      I hate consent violations. I don’t care if it’s how I type, what I eat, or who I let in my bed.

      LW received a “no” loud and clear and barged through it.

      1. AJHall*

        Worse, stealthily made it impossible for LW’s co-worker not to follow the advice which had already been rejected. It’s something which can’t really be tolerated, and if LW can’t understand why, no wonder they got fired.

      2. Oranges*

        THIS. This is what bugs me most about #1. Ignoring other people’s ‘no’ in a collaboration = Not Okay. Ignoring other people’s ‘no’ which in NO WAY impacts you == what even?

        Going so far to ignore the other person’s ‘no’ by messing with their computer. To me firing you isn’t about what you did. It was about how much outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior you went (policing typing) and then DOUBLED DOWN on it (messing with computer). And then doubled down on your doubling down on the double down(HR). Quadrupled down?

    2. always in email jail*

      I agree that this is certainly a better approach than the one taken by OP, but I would also be very, very irked if I was asked to explain my typing habits in detail and give background on them. That is not an intern or coworker’s business.

      1. Fake Eleanor*

        To be clear I don’t think it’s something that should be hashed out indefinitely. But if you notice the quirk and think it’s worth mentioning, have the short conversation, listen to the answers, and then let that be enough. You’re not being presented with a problem to solve.

      2. mdv*

        I was imagining this convo as:
        Me: Oh, how interesting that you use caps lock that way, I’ve never seen that before.
        Coworker: Blah blah blah
        Me: Fascinating! Whatever works for you!

        Not really demanding an explanation, just expressing interest… But maybe that would also be annoying. It really depends on the context, doesn’t it?

  21. Anonymous Educator*

    Like OP #1, I’m used to using the Shift key instead of Caps Lock, but you could actually argue that it’s better to use Caps Lock, because you don’t have to hold down a key while pressing another key. There’s a lot of physical coordination that needs to happen then—hold down shift key, keep it held, press key you want in caps, let go of that key, let go of shift key. If you let go of the shift key too soon, it might not work. I’ve had that happen. I’m not going to retrain myself to use the Caps Lock key, though.

    But, yeah, as others have mentioned, you can’t sneakily change someone’s tools to disable something you find personally “less efficient.” If I went to work tomorrow to find my co-worker had changed my keyboard from QWERTY to Dvorak without my permission, I’d be pretty pissed.

    1. Izzy*

      I wondered at first myself, then I remembered when I first learned to type. On a manual typewriter. The keys on a manual are not just electronic switches; they do actual work. The shift key holds up part of the machine, so that the upper case letter hits the ribbon. That was hard to do with the left pinky – my weakest finger – so I used to use Caps Lock when my pinky got tired. I guess I stopped doing that around the same time I learned not to reach for the carriage return at the end of each line. Unlearning the carriage return habit slowed down my workflow for a little while.

      1. sam*

        For those who *might* be interested (and who don’t already know!), on most computers these days, there’s an accessibility feature that you can turn on that makes your regular shift key a “sticky” key (it’s actually called “sticky keys” on windows computers). What it does is whenever you push the shift (or control, or alt) button, the computer continues to read them as “pressed” until you hit another key. it’s designed precisely for people who have trouble pressing two buttons at once. It automatically releases once you hit the second key, so you don’t have to do that second press to turn it off like you do if you’re using the caplocks key.

        Just a little tip. But obviously NO PRESSURE to change whatever workflow habit may work best for you. I sometimes use this feature when my hands get a little…creaky…but I didn’t even know it existed until I accidentally turned it on one day (which you can do by holding down the shift button for an extended period of time).

        Oh and Izzy – I was the very last year in my school system to be taught to type on those old IBM selectrics before the school moved the class to computers. It was a WORKOUT to type on one of those things!

        1. teclatrans*

          Ooh, thanks for the tip. There are days when this will be useful.

          And man, I do not miss lifting the whole carriage with my pinky.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Remington manuals were baaaddd, before that came the Underwoods. I have an Underwood with glass top keys here. Do. not. miss. it. At all. I am not sure why we did not break our fingers on those keys.
          If you did not have erasable paper and you made one mistake then you had to retype the whole page. I would still be in grammar school typing papers if they did not have erasable paper.

  22. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: I don’t think firing you was an overstep at all. Not only is her caps lock habit totally not the weirdest thing you’ll encounter in an office setting, I have to wonder why you were so dead-set on controlling her. It doesn’t matter that the action itself seems small when you say it out loud. You secretly altered someone else’s work equipment in order to force her to do things your way. That’s not okay or forgivable. You can’t go into other people’s computers without permission and change stuff you don’t like. You can’t act like you know better about things that are none of your business. The company is going to wonder if you would go through their HR or payroll files and change stuff when no one’s looking. That’s why they reacted the way they did. You established yourself as someone who doesn’t take a superior’s answer as the final word. You showed them that, no matter what anyone else says, you’re going to go ahead and do what you want anyway, even if it means violating other people’s privacy and using computers that you are not authorized to use, in ways that are not above-board. If you thought someone was using a computer too much, would you go in and change the password?

    Sorry, I’ll stop now. But I think that if this is pinging such a serious bell for me, it’s worth considering that your company felt the same way.

    1. Liz*

      This. I don’t know if the other points people made are as clear as tjey need to be for the OP.

      This is much clearer, you were told x and decided y was better anyway and tried to force or impose y on your supervisor.

      You signaled you are not going to listen to a supervisor when you don’t want to.

      This might be one of the hardest soft skills to teach. Good parents and teachers want bright students challenging their methods and ideas in a discussion (not by secretly trying to force things), the discussion is a way to reach, for students to try, and be pushed to see other sides etc.

      But at work this kind of discussion is not the same. You can ask about x, but if you are told no, we do y. That is it, end of conversation. Anything else is pushy and seems like you want to impose your way on bosses.

      For 16 years students are learning to push, now at work, they have to shift that. What feels like a conversation to a bright student is now seen as arrogant and pushy. It can be a difficult transition.

      1. Observer*

        Good parents and teachers want bright students challenging their methods and ideas in a discussion (not by secretly trying to force things), the discussion is a way to reach, for students to try, and be pushed to see other sides etc.

        Actually, no. Good parents want their children to learn when to push and when to accept authority. Because if you don’t you either wind up like the OP, or you wind up a doormat or someone who never takes initiative. Neither is good.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I agree with bringing more nuance to it.

          Also, one thing to keep in mind discussing authoritarian parenting is it tends to be common in communities where the adults don’t have a lot of opportunities to push back against authority and have that rewarded–they are teaching their kids how to keep a job, or how to not be shot for being insufficiently deferent. That can be “good” parenting.

        2. Artemesia*

          I agree nuance is key. People need to have judgment about when to push and when to not. When my daughter correctly pronounced W.E.B . Dubois in her literature class in college and the instructor correct her ‘it is du bwah’, she unlike her mother had the good sense to hold her tongue. You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them.

    2. Leavepeoplealone*

      LW 1 ne do to watch the tea and consent video.

      They received “no” as answer. They refused to listen

  23. Fire*

    With #1, I’d push back strongly on the idea that using the shift key is inherently more efficient than using the capslock key. I normally use the capslock key, and my WPM is around 80-90. I recently got a Chromebook which doesn’t use the caps lock key normally (it brings up a search bar unless you do alt + that key) so you have to use shift, and still have and use my regular laptop. Once I make the mental adjustment either way (getting used to using shift on the Chromebook or going back to using capslock on the laptop), I’ve noticed zero difference with my typing speed.

    All that aside, you said yourself she’s a quick and efficient typist. So what on earth is the problem? She already types fast. Her typing speed is clearly not impacting her work, and if it was it wouldn’t be your business. Unless you’re in an industry where sacrificing like 5 WPM is going to cost you your job (because, again, we’re talking about an already quick and efficient typist), why does she need to type at her ultimate most efficient speed? What’s actually being lost here, and why is it so significant you’d tamper with someone else’s computer to fix it?

      1. Fire*

        So… I switched the search key over to capslock, and it actually doesn’t register fast enough for me to use as capslock. I do the normal quick press capslock press key press capslock and it doesn’t register the capslock as being pressed until long after I’m already past the letter I want capitalized… and sometimes doesn’t capitalize a letter at all because there’s no delay for turning it OFF. Womp womp.

  24. GermanGirl*

    OP 1, you wrote that “she does type fast and efficiently” so there was no problem for you to fix in the first place.

    Also, changing how she types may distract her enough that she’ll make more mistakes and thus be less efficient for a while – which might easily offset any small speed gains later on.

    All that said, you were right to point it out to her but wrong to follow up on it after she considered it and said no.

    And messing with other people’s computers is a serious boundary violation, for which employees would get written up in many places, but for interns it’s usually easier to just let them go.

    There are some places in some industries (think IT security) where people will do something harmless like open a text editor and writing “Hey, you should really lock your computer when you leave your desk! The shortcut is Windows+L”. But I’d recommend getting a good read on the culture before doing anything like that.

    1. Tau*

      Also, changing how she types may distract her enough that she’ll make more mistakes and thus be less efficient for a while – which might easily offset any small speed gains later on.

      This. I’m experimenting with teaching myself to use a German keyboard layout instead of a British one, because when I’m typing in German it’s awkward to constantly have to switch layouts or use some weird shortcut (different on every computer I’ve had) for the umlauts and the ß. The end result is that my typing accuracy has gone down on every layout and that I’m suddenlz extremelz prone to messing up mz zs and ys. I’m sure that objectively speaking it’s more efficient to use a German keyboard layout when typing German*, but from my starting point as an extremely fast touch-typer on a quite different layout I’m not sure it’s going to be worth it.

      * except for e-mail addresses because why would you put the @ sign there…

      1. xyz*

        You’ll get used to it. Even though I type English most of the time, I switched to a French layout for the same reasons (even if it’s only 10% of the time, it’s enough of a hassle to find the éèàüïîôùç etc. that it’s worth it). Now I make mistakes if I ever have to use a QWERTY.

        1. Project Manager*

          Alternative option: Memorize the alt codes for the letters you want. E.g., alt+0233 types an é. It’s definitely slower than having an actual key for the character in question but way faster than copy-paste or digging up the character map.

          1. Project Manager*

            (The alt codes don’t work on all computers, though – there was definitely a time you couldn’t do them on Macs (maybe different now?), and I used to have a laptop that would never accept these inputs. Man, did that ever throw off my typing workflow.)

            1. Sarianna*

              The key combos are different on Macs–generally option+[combo key–e for accent aigu, i for accent grave, i for accent circonflexe], then the vowel you want to put the accent on; or even just option-c for cédille–but much like alt codes, once you learn what the pattern is, it becomes a habit and a better place to find the rest of them. Like, I studied Spanish much longer, and while I know alt-0233 is é, and 023x is probably another e with some accent, I don’t know all the other ones. but I can figure it out.

            2. Searching*

              I loved the day I found out that on my (US) Mac, if I just hold the letter key for a second, up pops a little menu with accented letters & corresponding numbers below them. Then I press the number for the accent I need. For example, I hold down the letter e for a second, then press the number 4, and voilà, the ë appears. No more “option u” then “e” for me, because I could never remember all those combos.

              I still had to memorize the Shift+Option+2 for € and Shift+Option+8 for °, because I don’t think there are similar “press & hold” functions for those.

            3. nonegiven*

              On my keyboard, the alt codes only work with the 10 keypad and not with the numbers above the letters. That is probably why it wouldn’t work on a laptop

        2. Anonygoose*

          French keyboards always throw me way off, not with the letter placement, but with the question marks and the @ symbol. Everything else I could get used to pretty quickly, but I never can instinctively type a question properly, even after months. I have both the Alt codes and the Mac codes fairly well memorised for french, though, and definitely type faster just using those (Mac codes are actually fast than the Alt codes! Part of the reason I got a Mac for uni during my french degree).

        3. Talvi*

          The Canadian French keyboard keeps the QWERTY layout while also giving easy access to the accents. (There are two Canadian French layouts, and while one of them us very annoying to use, the otheris ALMOST identical to the Rnglish keyboard.) I never use the French AZERTY keyboard if I can avoid it.

      2. Jenny*

        I tried switching to an ergonomic keyboard and couldn’t deal with it at all and it still has the same layout. It actually made my wrist tendinitis flare up which it was supposed to prevent.

        1. Merida Ann*

          I use the “wrong” hand to type the letter “y” on my keyboard. It doesn’t slow me down in the slightest, because it’s the natural way that I type. When I started my last job, I was assigned to a computer with an ergonomic keyboard that split the letters down the middle based on which hand you were “supposed” to use, so I kept hitting the solid space between the two sections when I tried to type “y”. A keyboard intended to force me to use the most efficient method slowed me down so much! Luckily, someone else in the office had a normal keyboard and wanted the ergonomic one, so we were just able to trade. Thank goodness. I can’t imagine someone seeing that I use my left hand for “y” and secretly switching me back to that ergonomic keyboard and thinking that would be an improvement.

      3. Emi.*

        OH MY GOSH THE @ THING KILLS ME. I never remember where it is, ever, and usually end up copypasting it from somewhere else, or switching back to USA.

      4. mdv*

        I have both (american) English and German keyboards set up on all my computers, and I bought keyboard labels for my personal machine, so I’d have a visual cue to work with … eventually I’ve been able to type in both English und auf Deutsch ohne Probleme, und ohne zu gucken.

  25. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I also have a dog with separation anxiety who could not be in doggie daycare. I bring up the “have to leave precisely at [X time]” after the offer is made, and so far it hasn’t been a problem. But even in jobs that say they’re ok with you leaving, you may have to massage the optics a little bit.

    I started a new job and had been very clear about why I needed to leave consistently at a specific time. But I also worked remotely in the evenings after my dog set in for the night. At a practical level, I came in way before my boss and sometimes left 20 minutes before him, and then worked 1-2 hours remote. He was kind of old school, and he was pretty shocked that I wasn’t “putting in hours” (i.e., face time) early into the job, even though I was working the same hours, if not more, than my colleagues. I could tell he thought I was slacking, but he was super indirect about communication, which made it hard to raise issues with him directly without him deflecting.

    So I did a few things. I “reminded” him that I was leaving at X:30 but working remotely in the evenings. I emphasized that my productivity/output was on time and high quality. I also had to get in the habit of sending my boss emails during remote-time so he could “see” that I was working. I also let my coworkers know that I was accessible again in the evenings, and I said it a few times out loud when he was walking by.

    Those tactics might not be helpful, but I think it’s important to know that even after an employer says “yes, of course!” to your schedule needs, sometimes there’s still implicit pushback.

    1. Doggy Anxiety*

      Thank you so much, this is really helpful, particularly about working remotely and emphasizing this fact!

      1. Graciosa*

        I think another key point here is that you’re still earning some credibility when you first start in a new job. No one knows yet who you are, and I would urge you to be thoughtful about what you share while you’re developing new relationships.

        I have fairly senior employees who sometimes manage business trips according to pet care arrangements. It isn’t a problem, as they are already established as hard workers who contribute value to the company. At that point, the “Hey, we all have lives” element kicks in without any difficulty. If they have to go out of town week X instead of week Y, everyone knows that the work is still getting done.

        A new person on the job doesn’t have the same credibility. You probably don’t want to be that “new person who has an anxious dog who can’t be left alone” before you’re known as “the teapot designer who came up with the hit concept for cocoa spouts.” If you’re rearranging travel to accommodate your dog’s issues without some performance behind you, some people may perceive a bit of a question mark around your commitment to the job. I’m not saying this is fair – it’s just impression management, and it’s a bigger deal in the first few months on the job than it will be when you’re established.

        Just to be clear, I would give the same advice about a host of other areas (dress, arrival time, length of lunch breaks, etc.) where established workers don’t have to be nearly as careful as the new person on the job.

        Best wishes to you and your dog –

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          This is super true. You get a lot more flexibility once you have established some trust between you and your coworkers.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          The credibility factor is something we had to discuss with a new employee last year who got mad because one person on the team was allowed to telework and shift their schedule and they were not. The issue was that the existing employee had spent the past five years putting in time, building relationships/goodwill, and doing superb work — so when their personal life and health took a simultaneous nose dive, we were really liberally in allowing them to deal with that because we knew that even if they weren’t physically there, the work was getting done (and it was and getting done well). New employee tried to pull the same schedule/flex time/telework without the credibility and could not understand why that mattered. It continues to be a problem because now the people who deserve the flexibility feel like they can’t use it without this person accusing them of getting special favors (which we continue to address directly over and over).

          I would also say, though, working in a field where there is not a set schedule and someone leaving every single day at a specific time WOULD be a substantial problem, I would be pissed if someone didn’t bring that up until the offer stage. I talk at length in the interview about flexibility and hours demands (and why our industry is like that), and, if they didn’t say anything until we’d extended an offer, they’d not only not be hired, I would not consider a future application for a similar position. We have projects that you have to stay and finish in the evenings, but we are also candid about it from the first conversation so it’s not a surprise to the candidate.

      2. sam*

        One other thing worth checking on, and this may or may not be available, and may or may not be an option depending on how anxious your dog actually is, obviously, but…

        The doggy day care by me offers a variety of services, including a pick up/drop off service. I don’t know if yours does, but it might be worth looking into, if there’s a possibility that you may get stuck from time to time – the service can bring your dog home at the end of the day and they’d only be home for, like, an hour or two?

        (again, obviously this would only work if your dog could stay home for an hour or two, but if so, it might help in a pinch?)

        1. k.k*

          If the daycare doesn’t provide it, there are also some companies that provide pet transportation services, basically a dog taxi. I’ve seen dog walking companies that offer it. Of course this would be an added cost, but it might work if there are a few times you know in advance that you’ll stay late.

    2. Kathleen Adams*

      I think this is great advice no matter what your reason is for needing to have X reasonable time accommodation (to leave on time most days, to leave early one day a week, whatever).

      I have an extremely non-anxious indoor cat, so the dog situation clearly doesn’t affect me, but I have for several years needed a slightly (and I do mean “slightly”) unusual schedule. Most people here work 8-4:30, but I need to come in a little later, so my hours are 8:30-5. Such arrangements aren’t unheard of here, although they are a little unusual for my particular department. But 10 years or so, my then-boss let me adopt this schedule, which was great until he was fired. Then successor boss let me adopt this schedule, which was great until he, too, was fired. (We’ve had a LOT of turbulence around here the past few years.) Now new boss has let me adopt this schedule, too, but as the princess suggests, from time to time, I make sure to point out in several subtle ways that although I come in “late,” I leave late, too. So far, so good!

      And hopefully I won’t need to break in a new boss for a while. :-)

  26. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 I’m struck by the fact that money was a factor – you mention needing a higher salary. Will going back to your old job be worth the pay cut? Or is it worth seeking a third option?

    1. OP 5*

      I’ve considered this for sure. Money was a big factor in my leaving for sure but as it turned out paying for a larger set of (mandatory) benefits and their way-more-expensive pension plan meant that my take-home pay wasn’t a significant as I first thought. Yes it’s more, but not so much more that it’s a deal breaker in my decision to stay.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah, that’s happened to me too: big raise bumped me into a higher tax bracket so my take-home pay was only $20/paycheck more.

        You can definitely go back. That is totally a thing! In fact I had many colleagues and friends who were lured away to crappy companies by large raises and many promises (not kept), and as soon as it became clear that those promises were BS, and the sheer depth of horribleness that the job really was, they asked to come back and were welcomed with open arms. There are two local major companies in my field who are notorious for trying to hire good people with lots of money, who promptly go back to their old jobs rather than put up with shenanigans.

        It’s also a thing that people rotate amongst different companies because the companies only give out paltry not-even-cost-of-living raises for a LOT of effort and work, and you can get a real raise/promotion only by leaving. So they spend 2 years here, 3 years there, 5 years somewhere else, then go back to the original employer for lots more money. This is considered no harm no foul, although you’d think that senior management would be a little bit cannier about keeping trade secrets.

        Have had multiple jobs where they would happily take me back in an instant. It’s nice, quite apart from being a good defense against Impostor Syndrome or feeling down on myself when something isn’t going well, I feel like, “hey, I am good, I have options, these people can go eat a bag of salted rat guts”. Keeps things in perspective.

        1. Artemesia*

          That must have not been much of a raise then as the ‘new tax bracket’ only applies to money earned above the lower tax bracket i.e. at the margins — it doesn’t extend to the entire salary.

      2. 6013*

        If you are Susan in New Mexico, please try to go back to your old position. I replaced a Susan who I have heard has this sentiment, and the job is nothing like how it was described when I interviewed. You can have it back.

    2. Bostonian*

      I was thinking the same thing! OP, if the only “downside” of your previous position was the salary, then ask yourself if the salary is enough to live with so that you wouldn’t be looking for another position for at least another year or two. If your last company brings you back, you’re in bridge-burning territory if you leave again too soon.

      1. caligirl*

        Go back if you can! So many others, including me once upon a time, on this site have wanted to go back when the new job wasn’t working out and not likely to improve and weren’t able to. Go back and enjoy!

    3. Engineer Woman*

      You may be able to ask (usually doesn’t hurts to ask) if old job could pay you just a small increase. If they haven’t found a replacement for you, they could be especially willing to pay a bit more for someone they know does good work.

      I think going back / at least inquiring is not a problem at all. Many times a job sounds good but for a variety of factors (morphs into something else, management wasn’t sure on what skills are needed in the first place, just not gelling with management or colleagues through nobody’s fault) it’s not so great. Your reasons for leaving were acceptable and you left on good terms so I’d definitely bring it up to your old manager – Alison’s wording is great. If the can’t take you back, they can’t but I just don’t think it hurts to try.

      However as noted, if you do go back, you then really need to stay put awhile, otherwise this bridge is burned.

  27. Emmylou*

    Re OP1 — I remember being new to the workforce and getting my head all torqued out because my boss used a lower case L instead of a 1. I’m old enough that it was a habit she’d picked up pre-computer days, and I remember trying to explain to her that this was going to cause issues with spelling checks, etc. She just — rightly — looked at me and carried on.

    I think I remember trying to hard to add value when I was new and didn’t know what I was doing that I seized on small things to feel expert about. I imagine that’s what was happening with the OP. Best advice I have is to be quiet and look at what you can learn. That’s what being new is about. It took me a while to figure that out.

    Re OP4, I agree with Alison — I’m a pretty efficient email sender and when I am doing multiple emails, I often get muddled with names, dates etc. Alison’s language is perfect — “hi, it’s Alison, really looking forward to meeting… blah blah”

    1. 7337 16 Never Been Kissed*

      >She just — rightly — looked at me and carried on.
      There’s a difference between doing something right in a different way and doing it wrong. or 4r3 7ett3r5 4nd num83r5 in3rch4ng34bl3 1n l2l7?

      1. Not the best analogy, imho*

        Especially in USPS addresses for your mailroom. That cute little lowercase o instead of a zero you used in the database? Yeah, it invalidated that address and now your mailroom needs to fix it. Again. Why? Because that character encodes differently so that scamming barcode they paid for and printed is worthless.

        Shift vs caps? Not important.
        Character substitution? Very important.

        1. Not the best analogy, imho*

          Scanning. Not scamming. Lol, character substitution strikes again to destroy meaning!

      2. Observer*

        That’s not what the boss was doing, though. The lower case was commonly used instead of the number one for a looong time, and it didn’t look like “l33t speak.”

        And the address and zip code validation that NTBA mentions came way later. And, if that’s what you are dealing with, sure bring it up. If the boss were doing that in spreadsheets, that would have been something to bring up, as well. In fact that was my first thought. But, in standard text, it was just not a big deal for a very long time.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I had a boss who always wrote “could of” “should of” and “would of” in emails instead of “could have” etc. I swear my soul died a little each time, but I successfully managed to not correct her. Sigh.

    3. SignalLost*

      Yeah, I try to be really careful when I email new students so I have the correct email/name relationship in my head (I am very weird and have a GREAT memory for random strings of characters, which a lot of emails look like when you add @whatever to them), but I’ve done this due to copy/pasting. I think Alison’s language is perfect – write back and take that interview! Good luck!

  28. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I think I would do what AAM says but with slightly less perkiness. The exclamation mark may be a bit much – after all you are drawing attention to someone else’s mistake here.

    I think I would start by suggesting times and then add a line saying: “I did just want to check this was intended for me as it was addressed to Jane – but assuming that’s the case, I look forward to hearing from you.”

    I don’t think I would open with flagging the name as the person might read your email feeling like they’ve been corrected. But I’m British and may be way off here…

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Haha, I had the same thing re feeling too British about it! I’d just email something like “I look forward to meeting you on X” and that will flag it for them, if it was a mistake, in a lower key way. But again, cultural differences, right? (I occasionally have conversations with USA friends in the same field who see a response that in British is pretty damn snarky, but in USA-English reads as friendly and polite!)

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      While it’s not peak Britishness because you’re not apologising for not being called Jane, I have the impression that we are the only ones who would read so much into a correction upfront. After all, they got her name wrong or messed up the addressees somehow, so they should be corrected.

    3. SignalLost*

      I actually think Alison’s language is great, at least in the US – your change reads more to me as calling more attention to the error than would be correct in the US, unless the office is super formal. Alison’s phrasing strikes me as more “you made an oops anyone could” but yours seems a little more “I am concerned there is a genuine mistake here rather than an oops.” (Not trying to rag on you; I think your comments are of very high caliber. I just think this is a case where minimizing the error is a better move.)

    4. ancolie*

      Interesting! I’m an American and the two seem exactly opposite to me. Alison’s example sounds cheerfully breezy, to me, minimizing the (potential) problem and shifting over to the meat of the reply. Your example sounds more Serious Business to me, like you’re making sure we figure out whether or not this was meant for me or for Jane, because did you (who you’re replying to) see that you made that mistake?

  29. MariaE*

    #5, People absolutely go back to their old work! I’ve been in my current job for more than 10 years, and without even trying hard, I can think of at least 10 people who left to try something else, found that it didn’t work out, and returned. Some after a few weeks/months, others after a few years.

    1. OP 5*

      Thanks so much for your response. Did your opinion of those who came back change at all? Or did you notice a difference in how they were received? I guess I shouldn’t care about stuff like that but …

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        I went back to an old job once, and it really seemed like a lot of people were happy to have me back. There was no judgment or anything like that. I think a bit part of it is your attitude. If you feel awkward/act awkward vs if you act confident to be back, people pick up on that.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I’ve seen a few people come back to my workplace, and while neither were treated any differently, they did not return to the exact work they did previously because duties were shifted around and/or positions filled in their absence. I think that’s the biggest difference for them.

      3. SignalLost*

        I worked at a place where someone was headhunted, left, then came back a few months later. I … felt that she very much exemplified the problems of that office (very cliqueish, not hugely proactive about change, etc), and she was an unenjoyable person to work with – one of those people who spends so much time complaining about how much work she has that you realize if she would complain less and work more she would be done with work. You, on the other hand, sound like someone people would welcome back. It sounds like you have a positive attitude and you worked hard during your notice period. Assuming you weren’t also stockpiling Brie and Camembert in a desk drawer, I can’t see why people would not be glad to see you back. Reach out to your manager ASAP, and good luck!

      4. LKW*

        I left a job on good terms for a new opportunity. That lasted a couple of years after which I was laid off. I took off some time and then was talking to a friend/ex-coworker who told me they were hiring again. A few months later, I was rehired. No one blinked. I think there were a few people who weren’t even aware I’d left (I keep a low profile). Any reaction was more a slap on the back and “hey! good to see you! I heard you were back!”
        The biggest challenge was that while I was gone, people who used to report to me had lapped me professionally and were now senior to me. I just treated them like any other person senior to me; I made choices that impacted my career trajectory.

      5. Kathleen Adams*

        I have two coworkers right now (and this on a staff that numbers about 50) who left and then came back. One took a new job, discovered that she’d just made a terrible mistake and came back only about 3 months later, while the other took a job on a congressional committee and came back several years later after the senator he worked for retired.

        In both cases, they were welcomed back with open arms, the first one because she’s just generally good at her job and easy to get along with, and the second because in addition to those two reasons, he now has all this great congressional experience, which helps us now, too.

        And actually my husband did the “took a new job that turned out to be a terrible mistake and got his old job back” thing many years ago. It turned out OK. His old job was not that great, honestly, but it was much better than the new job, so once he realized that the new job was a terrible mistake, he asked for and got his old job back and as a thanks for taking him back, he stayed there for 18 months or so before looking for a new job – a decent one, this time.

        So yes, definitely a thing.

      6. kitryan*

        I had a coworker (my team lead at the time) move to another company and she was unhappy there. My boss and I both would have been happy to have her return – we discussed it several times as a possible solution to a staffing issue. The only caveat that my boss had (because she’s awesome) was that I would definitely not have a reduction in my title/responsibilities if coworker returned, as I’d assumed a number of her duties, and we would be more like equals if she chose to come back. I don’t think anyone would have had an issue with trying to leave for what seemed like a good opportunity that turned out to be full of (metaphorical) bees.
        Unfortunately, she did not choose to return, as the commute was still too long (the reason she had left originally).
        You can frame it as original workplace spoiling you for any place else- it is flattering to your coworkers and workplace that you wanted to come back!

      7. Bea*

        I had to go back once in my transition out of my previous decades old job. It was a week after I accepted another job and the new job was incredibly stressful (long story short, the owner/boss was …difficult and horrible). So I sent an email to my old boss at 2AM saying I was going to come back because it was not going to work out. She was delighted and everyone else was like “LOL you’ll never leave, that’s okay though.” They got to hear the entire story needless to say, they were glad I escaped unharmed.

        It really depends on your coworkers. You left because you thought the opportunity was a great one and you shouldn’t pass it up. You weren’t actively looking and like “Argh I hate it here, argh I have to leave.” only to return.

        The only time I’ve ever judged someone for coming back (and I’ve seen plenty of returns, I live in a world where a lot of people rotate back into the work we do) is when they bad mouth and act a mess before leaving. Then it’s like “oh, I see we’re not that bad after all…can you leave again, please?”

      8. MariaE*

        OP, not even a little bit :-) My opinion went from a completely neutral, “Oh, s/he’s back – cool” to “YESSSSSS!!! S/He’s back!!!!” I never had a negative thought about anybody who returned… nor did I notice one from anybody else.

    2. hermit crab*

      Lots of people have left and come back at my company too. One of them is now the CEO!

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      Sometimes it seems half our workforce is rehires. People–especially good people– are often welcomed back to their old jobs. Hell, my former boss, who I haven’t worked for in 4 years, tried to recruit me back just last week.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      My current employer is also gracious with one return (at the same position, people can also leave, switch jobs and come back) former employees that did really good work. Why would I go through a recruiting process again when I have a known quantity who already knows many of the organizational systems and requires less training? My biggest question is why someone wants to return and what type of tenure I can expect from them. I don’t want to be a way station for someone trying to find themselves, but I have no problem welcoming back people who found out the grass wasn’t greener and want to return.

      I also took advantage of this once, and, when I was returning, one of the interviewers declined to interview and simply wrote on the interview form for HR, “Would be stupid not to hire [NAM!] back, recommend offer. ASAP.”

    5. YNWA*

      I’m (hopefully) about to do this. I left my previous employer 9 months ago (after being there a very long time), but my new position didn’t work out (not a good fit etc). I emailed my old boss to let him know I was looking for a new job and asked him to be a reference. He called me and asked if I’d be interested in coming back. Yes I would. He’s flying into town tomorrow to meet with me and discuss a new position. My old (manager) position was filled by my previous supervisor….so I must have been doing something right there!
      Contact your old boss and at least have a chat about it. The worst they can say is no!

  30. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    A question related to #3:
    Same Apple ID on both work and personal devices.

    We have iPhones provided to us by the company that are explicitly for both our professional and personal use. We can of course choose to keep two phones but 90% just use the personal one.

    They have free calls and texts worldwide and a lot of data.

    The policy specifies that we have to use our own Apple IDs (but there’s nothing stopping us from making a specific work login I guess )

    My Apple ID is connected to both my personal iPad and laptop. I don’t use mobile data on them, just my home wifi.

    I do view adult sites on my personal devices. (Fanfics mostly but not exclusively)

    A-ok or should I stop?

    1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      *90% just use the company phone as their personal device.

      1. Violet Fox*

        What sort of access does your company have to your devices? Do they use a device enrolment plan (DEP) that gives them any sort of remote access, if so you should check the IT policieis to see exactly what sort of access they have and what they plan on doing or not doing with your device, as well as what they can do.

        From a privacy standpoint, especially in places like the US without strong legal privacy protections, I would generally recommend havinvg a separate iCloud, etc account for work even though that means, for good and bad, things like keychain, music, App Store and whatnot are not shared across accounts. That being said, I actually do use my personal iCloud for everything work and home, but that my devices being for my personal use as well is part of my compensation package, no DEP, I live in a country with strong privacy laws that I have to know well because of my job, and I am the IT staff.

        The reason they have you use your own iCloud account for it is that there are not really any other options, asside from no iCloud/Apple account.

        1. Violet Fox*

          Just to add in the general case that getting to know your company’s IT policies is a very good idea.

        2. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          I’m Scandinavian so the laws protecting me are certainly stronger than American ones. I have read the mobile policy several times but can’t recall right now exactly what it said about what can and can’t be accessed. Will reread asap though.

          I assume they have access to everything – it would make the most sense.

          IT always asks us for access when they’re helping us remotely but that might just be politeness.

          1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

            Read it again just now.

            It was surprisingly unspecific.

            It says that the company can monitor all use (that I knew and expected ) and that improper use can be punished. They specifically mention unnecessarily high data use as something that would be improper.

            It also specified how I should use the phone abroad and that it is primarily a work tool but permissible for personal use.
            And that I should always use a screen protector…

            But nothing about stuff I wasn’t allowed to do.
            Not sure if it’s implied or if it’s been missed.
            I’ll have a hunt for the global policy (this was the regional one) and see if it covers something.

            1. Cassandra*

              That strikes me as fairly scary, for what it’s worth. Their lack of specificity means they can decide on an ad-hoc basis that something you’re doing is wrong.

              I like Alison’s advice: get a separate gadget with a separate data plan.

              1. Violet Fox*

                In much of Scandinavia, unless you are doing something like corporate espionage, very badly handling the security of work products, or violating other people’s privacy, some of the worst that you might get in a lot of cases is a stern talking to.

                It’s a bet less usual for people here who have work phones to have a separate one as well, but there are fairly common ways to bake the whole “for personal use as well” as part of one’s compensation package.

                Some of this also depends if the place has a separate data protection and security policy (my work place does, but fortunately we have mostly used it to thump users over the head who ask for dropbox on their work computers, rather then have to tell backup and restore to destory drives and tapes because someone accidentally emailed a birth number or something worse).

                1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

                  Heh, I’m not sure whereabouts you’re from but I’m Swedish and a high government official was fired and fined (very unusual!) after inadvertently giving heaps of highly confidential information both about private citizens but also about govt stuff to a consultancy who ended up subcontracting the work and the data to Eastern Europe…

                  The official went through with the deal even when intelligence agency forbade it, which is why they ended up in such trouble.

                  And all that happened to her was that she was fired and fined $7000.

                  That doesn’t mean I don’t that my own privacy seriously but it’s just not the same here as it is in the US.

            2. Graciosa*

              I too would regard this as fairly scary.

              That combination – “monitor all use” with “primarily a work tool” but “permissible for personal use” is pretty standard for large companies that reserve the right to look at *everything* and decide some personal use is unacceptable. For example, it may be acceptable to visit LinkedIn X frequently – but not 3X frequently – or not at all when you’re already in trouble.

              If an investigation is started – which may not be personally targeted against you, by the way, but everyone who deals with some topic / project / customer / has a specified access – it is normal to monitor *everything.* We have disclosures and consents embedded in login screens in addition to policies so people can’t say they were not informed (assuming they are the rare creature who actually reads them).

              I do read them, and I don’t do *anything* on a company computer I wouldn’t want broadcast to my entire chain of command. I carry my own phone (and my own tablet when traveling) because it’s just not worth the risk.

              – And I haven’t even started on the IP ownership issues. ;-)

            3. Violet Fox*

              I’m in the same region as you. Often the reason why things aren’t specific is because a lot of the privacy protections are a legal thing that does not need to be restated in such a document. The law is the law and that still applies. Your country’s data privacy bureau should have some good information on their website about what your basic protections are, including workplace surveillance and what they are allowed to do with that data.

              There is a very good chance that mostly what they want you to do is not burn through your data plan, not send work products to outside sources (including unapproved cloud services), and to not do anything super-illegal with the device.

              1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

                Oh how nice that you’re also from here! Thank you for your advice!

                I’m inclined to believe you – im not publishing selfrecorded porn using a company device after all, just reading naughty fics.

                I do know of people from my country being fired for watching porn on company computers during work hours but that’s the only cases I know of.

                I will do some more digging regardless and might end up getting a work Apple ID (or using the family sharing idea – very nifty!) just on principle.

                I don’t believe I’ll ever be in trouble but I don’t like granting unnecessary access if I don’t have to. And I have very firm ideas about what companies should and shouldn’t demand to know about their employees.

        3. blackcat*

          You could also set it up as a separate apple ID tied to a “family” set up. The “family sharing” system allows my husband to access my apps/music & books I have bought/etc (I don’t think you have to allow all of it–there are options) without sharing all data.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      “My Apple ID is connected to both my personal iPad and laptop”

      You should get separate work and personal IDs. If you have any access to work systems from a device, you should not access adult sites from that devices. This includes access through a couple of steps, as in, ‘my laptop can link to my phone for software A, and I can access work email from my phone’. Do not mess around with viruses and hackers, especially if you travel.

      I work for a tech company. I have a personal computer for accessing non-work sites like this, and my work computer. I have the option of using my personal phone to access work systems like email, and I just don’t. If my home / personal setup gets hacked, the path to work is limited. Not nil, since I do wfh regularly, but my work computer has its own physical firewall inside my home network. Mr. Jules is an IT security person and I asked him to make my wfh setup an extra layer of secure, just in case. I like my job and don’t want to risk it because I also happen to be an adult with a lot of interests.

  31. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No.1 I’m left handed and sometimes it appears awkward to others when I perform certain tasks. I know what I’m doing, please don’t suggest a “better” way.

    1. Jenny*

      I have some slight nerve damage and tendinitis in my
      hand due to an injury and surgery when I was a teen. It isn’t enough to be worth mentioning and I usually don’t but people might see some of my habits as a little off. It’s because sometimes part of my hand is a little numb.

      1. Cassandra*

        Praise be to the deities of Physical Therapy (if this is you, you are amazing and I love you) that my hands now work, but…

        … for some years my left one didn’t, entirely. “Ulnar entrapment,” it’s called, and when it’s really bad it hurts like stink from wrist to elbow and significantly weakens ring and pinky fingers. I never tried the caps-lock dodge, but these days I have a Kinesis keyboard with remappable keys, and my left-hand shift is remapped to a thumb key.

        “Fix” the remapping at your peril!

    2. Jules the 3rd*


      If it’s not an actual problem, don’t try to fix it. There’s a gazillion legitimate reasons why people won’t do things the same way you do.

      People doing things different ways is a great learning opportunity, actually. I regularly work to educate new execs on the market segmentation that has driven decisions in my company’s semi-config to order manufacturing, which gives the execs a starting point for assessing the overall market and sales strategy.

  32. Jenny*

    For op2 I would feel out your boss a bit. Some people will react better to “I need to get my dog” than it others. Some people would be sympathetic, some think “just a dog”. I would also ask it generally. If the office has an unwritten expectation of staying late every day, job is.probably.not a good fit.

    1. Doggy Anxiety*

      Thanks Jenny! I’m definitely wondering if the grass isn’t always greener in this instance.

    2. teclatrans*

      Speaking of feeling out/starting with a more low-key approach, I wonder if you can say you board your dog during the day (and pickup time is nonnegotiable), as the term “doggy daycare,” while pretty common these days, holds some connotations of over-indulging pets, treating them like kids, etc.

  33. Myrin*

    #1, I’m not going to comment on the situation surrounding your firing in particular since, like Alison said, that’s already been pretty well covered. I do instead want to give advice that might help you in generally similar situations throughout your life.

    I am, on the one hand, someone who can hardly stand watching someone do something I perceive as “inefficient”. It makes me ragey to the point of fuming although I’m usually someone who doesn’t give a sh*t about stuff like this; it’s a strange and uncontrollable phenomenon I’ve been battling for basically all my life. My solution to that is to look away. Seriously. Leave the room, turn around, fix your eyes somewhere else, whatever you can do. I promise you it will decrease your level of annoyance to basically zero. It was a revelation when I read this – in hindsight, obvious – piece of advice not so many years ago. What matters is the end result and if that’s something I can be happy about, I really don’t need to care how it came to be.

    On the other hand (and ironically), I’m also someone who can bristle immensely at someone correcting me in anything. My first reaction to someone telling me (with regards to something I’ve done my way for a long time) is to tell them “NO!!1!”. However, it’s happened quite often that, once the discussion was over, I took some time to think about it and then ponder if maybe their way would be more practical after all and that maybe I should indeed look into it. I’ve observed this same phenomenon in others as well – they’ll react strongly at first but in the end do the thing differently if they decide it’s worth it.
    All that is to say: It sounds like you disabled your coworker’s capslock key quite shortly after your conversation about it. But since apparently she didn’t know about using shift at all (which I find fascinating because HOW but that’s beside the point), she might well have thought about it for a few days and come to the conclusion that yes, it would indeed be more efficient to do it this way. She might also not, which is fine as well, but in general, I think it’s good to remember that it’s worthy to bring stuff up once, sow the seed so to speak, and then let nature (or people) take its course. But you can’t do that if you forcibly take matters into your own hands.

    I’m sorry you were fired and wish you all the best!

    1. Emily*

      Seconding the “just look away” advice! For me, someone with annoying optimizer tendencies, learning to look away (or leave the room, or whatever is applicable) has been really helpful – I’m less likely to feel the desire to correct someone, which in turn means they’re less likely to feel upset or defensive because of something I’ve said.

    2. Mimmy*

      I’m a keyboarding instructor, and I too get annoyed when I see my students do something I think is inefficient, even after I’ve explained to them several times why it is inefficient. The only time I have the luxury to “look away” is when I can leave student A to work independently–even if inefficient–so I can work with student B.

      I know that ragey feeling, believe me!

      1. DavidG*

        What if they can’t do it the way you believe is efficient? What if that’s physically difficult, painful or just plain impossible for them? Efficiency is individual.

  34. Bagpuss*

    OP5, yes, people do go back, and it can work. But if you go back, you may find that the dynamics of your relationship with your boss and others do change a bit, as everyone now knows you are willing to go – you may find some people a cooler towards you, and (depending on the nature of your work) that some things have been reallocated to others and don’t automatically get returned to you.

    I notice that one of your reasons for taking the new job was salary, and another was that it had better prospects for career development, so one thing to think about is how you are going to deal with that. If you go back, is thee any scope for talking to your boss about whether there are ways your pay could increase in future, or that you could develop your skills. if not,do you see going back a short term thing until you can find a new job which gives you those advantages but s a better fit for you than the current move?

    I think it would be sensible to think carefully about those sorts of thing so that you have a clear idea of where you see things going.

    Also, think about why you don’t like the new job. How much of it is culture shock / being out of your comfort zone, and how much is a fundamental mis-match which isn’t likely to improve? Are you likely to have similar issues with other jobs which might, on the face of it, give you the better development prospects and higher salary, or is it specific to this company? Sometimes analysing why it isn’t right can help you avoid making the same mistakes again.

    1. OP 5*

      Thanks for this. If I were to go back I would need to commit time to the organization so I am definitely not looking at it as a short-term fix – that wouldn’t be fair to them. I think it’s 50/50 culture shock and fundamental “issues” that aren’t going to change. I say “issues” in quotation marks because they’re not really – they have many people on staff that are happy doing what I do – it’s the job itself that I’m having an issue with. As an example, my last job was the same job title, but there I was managing staff, working on projects, engaged with other staff and volunteers, whereas here I get coffee, arrange and rearrange calendars and am not even invited to team meetings. And that’s completely fine for many people, it’s just not what I want.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think those are legitimate things you can raise with you old boss of you do ask about going back – you can be clear that you enjoy and feel you do well at the project wand team work etc – I think if they see that there are positive things in Old Job you want to return to,rather than negative things in new job that you are getting away from, it gives everything a more positive spin!

      2. MissGirl*

        How much of your responsibilities are because your new? Starting a new job at the same level might mean going backward a bit.

        1. OP 5*

          Yes for sure! My responsibilities seem to be consistent with others at my level at current company – which is why I don’t see them changing. It’s not at all what I was offered.

          1. Lora*

            Oh heck, bait and switch is an excellent reason to go back! and one your previous employer should understand.

            Why employers do this is beyond me. They will get a reputation and then struggle to recruit good people, they will have an extremely unhappy staff, they will end up with stupid high turnover. Either fix the reasons that the job sucks and nobody wants it when it’s realistically described, or say “look we know this sucks but we’re willing to pay for your boredom/stress”. Those are your options. Trashing the entire company’s reputation and limiting recruiting for the whole entire company because they become known as That Company is not a solution.

      3. LKW*

        It’s very common for people to leave and come back to my company. The unofficial policy is you get one return trip. If you leave a second time, it’s unlikely you’d return unless under very special circumstances (like you were acquired as part of company merger or you had very niche skills that were needed for a project.)

      4. Starwatcher*

        There’s at least one large state university system where, because of the laws regarding raises, it’s perfectly normal and accepted for people to reach a certain promotion ceiling in their department, take another job elsewhere for a couple of years, then come back as a “new” hire in a new position at a much higher salary.
        Administration knows this is stupid, wasteful, and punishes people for loyalty, but no one has been able to change it because making changes is like turning the Titanic.

  35. Rebecca*

    #5 – you can go back! I left my job, terrible manager, unrealistic workload for over 2 years, and I finally got an interview for a job that I thought I would love, and…I didn’t. It had better pay, like yours, but nothing else and I was just as miserable there. I reached out, gave my notice, and went back, to a new manager and realistic workload, better hours, and just a much better experience.

    Please reach out to your manager. Life is too short to be unhappy in one of the basic things most of us have to do: earn a living.

    1. OP 5*

      How did you find going back? Both the process and how it was when you got there? It’s a weird thing to worry about I suppose, but I worry about what I’d say to people. I would want to seem at once grateful for the chance to come back, but not wanting to bad-mouth my new/current employer.

      For what it’s worth, my last manager was awesome – there’s nothing I’d want to change which is so rare that I can’t believe I was dumb enough to give it up!

  36. OrangeYouGlad*

    #2 – Picking up your dog.

    The thing to be aware of are the optics here.

    Some people are dog people and would completely understand this! Some people are not and will not get it…and may possibly judge you for leaving your important work for your dog?

    Perhaps keep the reason you need to leave at 5:30 PM to an unspecified “after work commitment” that you need to take care of until you get to know your office better and how they will perceive this.

    Unless you are applying at jobs where there are dogs in the interview!

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed – keeping the description as a generic “have commitments so need to leave at 5:30 consistently, with only very rare exceptions” is the way to go. Your dog is essentially no different than if a parent had child care commitments, but there’s a sizable number of people who either (a) wouldn’t quite see it that way or (b) would question the whole idea of a dog needing specialized training for anxiety.

      1. a Gen X manager*

        I totally agree with Orange and Antilles comments here. I would add that I am a manager and a dog owner whose dog goes to daycare every day and I still agree that it is best to not share the reason for the need to leave by that time every day. Most people don’t get it. I love dogs and see them as part of the family, but I still don’t want be told / reminded that the reason you have to get out the door is for the dog. It is just a mismatch with our culture and implies that you’re not putting your work first (which isn’t logical if you’re actually performing, but it creates that impression). Vague (but unchangeable) family /personal obligations in the evenings is definitely the way to go here, no matter how understanding a particular employer or manager might be.

        1. a Gen X manager*

          I meant to also say that even if Manager A is super cool about it, it could adversely affect your reputation with your co-workers, other managers, etc. Managing the optics of this is a part of professionalism, I think. AND you definitely don’t want it to become “a thing” (“she has to get her dog” ).

          So, OP 2, I think you’re really smart for thinking about this in advance and setting yourself up for the best approach with a new employer! Good luck!

    2. Lora*

      +1. People have to leave on time ALL THE TIME. They have to catch a train, they have kids, they have elderly parents, they have a yoga class. But if you mention *why*, I guarantee that someone, somewhere, will think it’s not a good enough reason and will nitpick. If your manager is anything like me, she doesn’t want to deal with a bunch of whining from the person who thinks your dog is not as important as their guppy-breeding class or whatever. Just say you gotta leave on time but you’ll have your phone/email/VPN.

      Seriously, if you have to leave to pick up your kids, there’ll be someone without kids grousing that they can’t leave on time because they don’t have kids, even if they are 100% capable of leaving on time should they choose to fart around the coffeemaker for less than two hours every morning. If you have to leave to pick up your dog, someone will say “It’s just a dog, it’s not like it’s kids!” If you have to leave to pick up your elderly parent from adult day care, someone will say “can’t she wait an hour? she’s an ADULT!” If you have to leave to catch a train, someone will tell you to just Uber. If you have to leave for a class, someone will tell you to skip class and just get the notes and read the textbook. There’s seriously no end to the second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking, but if you just say “I have to leave on time” with no explanation whatsoever, it sort of bypasses all that nonsense.

      1. Another person*

        Agree completely. My colleagues and my boss don’t need to know I leave on time so I can run personal errands after work and still get home to feed my fussy dog who somehow can tell time! They just need to know I always leave by a certain time and my work is either complete or I have an appropriate plan for completing it.

        It is immensely helpful that I established at the offer stage my proposed work schedule was in line with the expectations for my role.

          1. sam*

            heh. I had to get a different alarm clock at one point because my cat, through trial and error, figured out that if she walked on the buttons on the top of my clock, she could get the music started and…if the radio started to play, that meant that it was time for me to get up! and feed her!

            at 3:00 in the morning.

            The first time it happened, I thought it was a kind-of-funny accident. After the 5th or 6th time, I caught her in the act and realized she was doing it on purpose.

            Mind you, she has an automatic feeder that has gone off at the exact same time every day for almost 8 years.

      2. k.k*

        Oh yes. There’s always someone with an opinion. Once you’re on the job for longer and really get a feel for the place you may be safe with the honest explanation, but until then no details are needed. Most people have lives outside of work, so you’ll hardly be the first person to mention having an obligation in the evening.

  37. Katie the Fed*

    God, do I love intern letters. God bless ’em. Hearts in the right places, minds somewhere else.

    1 – if you hate inefficiencies that much, don’t ever work for government! But seriously – people are going to have all kinds of REALLY annoying work habits. They’ll take notes on their hands or respond to every email with “thanks” or eat chips at their desk all day with their mouths open. You’re just going to have to deal.

    2 – Agreed with Alison’s advice. Don’t tell them it’s for doggie daycare. Just say you have a commitment and will need to leave most days at that time.

    1. Grits McGee*

      It is interesting that there’s a common thread in a lot of these intern/inexperienced workers making bad judgement calls and getting fired letters, namely that it’s not the decision itself that’s fireable, it’s the getting “getting a no/soft no and pushing anyway.”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I imagine it’s the qualities that have helped them get this far – gumption and tenacity – just taken to an extreme.

        1. Violet Fox*

          Sometimes I think the first time many of our younger/first time in the work force folks where I work have never encountered a hard no until they encounter me.